Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen set a US Open record and a testing clubhouse target on Saturday, two things he never could have expected less than 36 hours earlier.
The only good thing about Oosthuizen's opening round of 77 was that it was the lowest of his group, with Tiger Woods shooting 80 and Rickie Fowler an 81 for a combined total of 28 over par.
And after starting his second round at Chambers Bay with bogeys on his first two holes - the 10th and 11th - Oosthuizen admitted he was fully expecting to miss the halfway cut.
However, the 32-year-old birdied three of his next five holes, eagled the first and birdied the sixth and eighth to card a superb 66, which he matched in the third round thanks to five birdies and a solitary bogey.
That gave Oosthuizen a record total of 132 for the middle two rounds, beating the previous best of 133 held by Loren Roberts, Jim Furyk and Lee Westwood, and the clubhouse lead on one under par.
" Being nine over through 20 holes, it looked like I would have been back in Florida today," Oosthuizen said. "But I made a few putts yesterday and started hitting the ball really well.
"I found a bit of a swing with my driver on the range and seemed to sort of go from there on the rest of my game. And today I hit it really close on a lot of holes, could have been probably a lot lower.
"I think all three of us pulled each other down into the depths a bit (on Thursday). Everything was poor but I made one or two putts, had a great back nine yesterday and built from there."
As the final groups approached the turn, Oosthuizen was five behind American Dustin Johnson, with fellow South African Branden Grace and Masters champion Jordan Spieth a shot behind.
Spieth had made a brilliant start with long birdie putts on the second and third to briefly enjoy a three-shot lead, but bogeyed three of the next four, two of them caused by uncharacteristic three-putts.
Australia's Jason Day was alongside Oosthuizen on one under, the world number 10 opting to play despite collapsing on the final hole of his second round after suffering an attack of vertigo.
World number one Rory McIlroy failed to make an impression on the leaderboard, experiencing more frustration on the greens in a third round of 70 to remain four over par.
" I missed seven good chances on the back nine, or seven makeable putts, anyway," said McIlroy, who marked holing his par putt on the 18th with a mock celebration.
"It was just nice to see one drop at the last there. I feel like I turned a 65 into a 70 today.
"W henever you start to miss a couple you start to get a little tentative. You start to doubt yourself. You start to doubt the greens a little bit. And then it just sort of snowballs from there.
"I holed a few nice ones early on, but once I missed a couple it got into my head and couldn't really get out of it."
Henrik Stenson had memorably likened the greens to putting on broccoli, but McIlroy joked: "I don't think they're as green as broccoli. I think they're more like cauliflower.
"They are what they are, everyone has to putt on them. It's all mental. Some guys embrace it more than others, and that's really the way it is. It is disappointing that they're not in a bit better shape. But the newer greens like seven and 13, they're perfect.
"I played last Sunday and I felt like they (the USGA) brought it a little too much towards the brink then. And it's always a struggle from then to sort of rein it back little bit."
McIlroy admitted he was frustrated to four-putt the 17th and drop another shot on the 18th in his second round, but was happy to have ground out a score after missing the cut in his previous two events.
" I'm pleased with how I've kept it going," the 26-year-old said. "I'm hitting great shots and great drives and giving myself chances the whole time.
" It's just hard to stay patient whenever I'm not holing anything. I feel mentally I've accepted most things this week, which is good."
Johnson carded his third bogey of the day on the 11th but drove the green on the short 12th and two-putted for birdie, which was good enough for a two-shot lead after Grace bogeyed following a wild drive.
Spieth was also struggling and dropped a shot on the 11th to fall three behind, although that was nothing compared to Ben Martin, who was one off the lead when he birdied the first but then played the next 11 holes in 13 over par, including a nine on the par-five eighth.