Playing in only his first major championship, Brendan Steele shot a three-under-par 66 in the third round Saturday to go into tomorrow’s final day of play with a share of the lead of the 2011 PGA Championship in the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

Brendan Steele at the the Bob Hope Classic in La Quinta in February. Photo by Jack Clark
Coming from a tie for seventh after Friday’s second round, the Idyllwild native birdied three of the first six holes at the Atlantic Athletic Club course to take full possession of the tournament lead at six under par. He gave it away and more on the very next hole when he double bogeyed the par-3 seventh, but he bounced back with a birdie at the par-4 eighth.

Steele then birdied every other hole through the fourteenth taking back sole possession of the lead at eight under par. When Jason Dufner made bogey, Steele’s lead became two shots over Dufner, fellow rookie and good friend Keegan Bradley and veteran pro Jim Furyk.

On the treacherous par-4 eighteenth, Steele’s drive found a tough lie in the right fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up. He eventually bogeyed to finish at 7-under par. Moments later, Dufner birdied the par-4 sixteenth to tie for the lead. Dufner parred out from there to share the lead with Steele going in to tomorrow’s final round, when the two will be paired together.

From his home in Idyllwild, Kent Steele, Brendan’s father, said: “Last year [when Brendan won the Nationwide Tour Championship] we had Nationwide tension. This past April [when he won the Valero Texas Open] we felt PGA Tour tension. Today we experienced MAJOR tension!”

In an on air interview with ESPN, Steele said he has had trouble over the past several weeks coming into this tournament, but began to turn his play around after a nine hole practice round with friend and fellow pro golfer Scott Piercy.

“I started clicking Thursday and hopefully it wll keep on another day,” he said.

Steele and Dufner will tee off in their show down tomorrow at 11:40 a.m. our time on CBS television.