Tiger Woods, defending champion, fired a two-under 69 in his third round at the British Open at Carnoustie on Saturday but failed to make any immediate impact on tournament leader Sergio Garcia.
The world number one is chasing a hat-trick of Open victories, a feat achieved only once in the last 125 years by Australian Peter Thomson from 1954 to 1956, and will start his final round on Sunday at one-under.
Woods has not won any of his 12 majors when coming from behind on the final day and will have to break that streak after compatriot Steve Stricker hit a course record-equalling 64 to move into outright second place at six-under, three strokes behind Garcia.
Garcia was going well on the course at nine-under in slightly easier conditions than the first two days, having birdied the first, eighth and 11th.
Pre-tournament favourite Woods, who started the day seven behind Garcia, did not help his cause with a bogey five at the second but birdies at the fourth and fifth and another at the seventh sent him to the turn on a two-under 34.
The 31-year-old Woods picked up another shot at the long 14th but further birdies proved elusive.
Woods' surge was overshadowed by the sizzling Stricker who collected seven birdies in his magnificent round of 64.
Stricker produced a faultless seven-under effort, which is the best score in an Open at the Scottish venue.
The American has been out of the top-40 at the third major of the year since he tied for 22nd on his debut at Lytham in 1996, and has never won a major with his Open best being tied 22nd at Royal Lytham in 1996.
The 40-year-old has a solid record on the PGA Tour and is a three-time winner including the 2001 Accenture Match Play Championship.
Woods and Stricker were not the only early starters to make progress in damp but relatively benign conditions.
Zach Johnson, US Masters champion, was one to benefit with a 68 which took him to one over while Britain's Justin Rose gained six birdies in a 67 to go one under.