DUBLIN, Ohio -- As Matt Bettencourt's uphill 20-foot par putt slid an inch past the hole at 18, the Modestan was hardly shaken or upset.
After his tap-in bogey, which left him tied for the lead heading into the final round at one of golf's most prestigious tournaments, he was all smiles as his playing partner was finishing out the hole.
The Beyer High School graduate had just finished a marvelous round and secured a spot in the final pairing at the golf tournament hosted by legend Jack Nicklaus.
"I had a great time," Bettencourt told CBS analyst Peter Kostis and a nationwide television audience following his third-round 4-under-par 68, which left him tied with Mark Wilson entering Sunday's final round. "This is what it's all about. This is the majors. You're at Jack's place. It's one the best courses we play all year. Great fans.
"Just a lot of fun out here. I'm having a ball. This is great."
Bettencourt finished with eight birdies, including a stretch of four on the front nine that helped catapult him into the lead ahead of such big names as Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els.
Bettencourt had a two-stroke lead after birdies on 11 and 12. He fell back a little after a bogey on the par 4 14th. He birdied 15, nearly holing out a 70-foot eagle putt to the amazement of the CBS announcing crew, and also birdied 17 before his bogey on 18, which left him at 9-under-par for the tournament.
He entered the third round in fifth place.
Kostis asked him how difficult it was to maintain his "perspective" playing in "the big leagues."
Bettencourt, who looked comfortable all day, said: "It's a challenge. You have to go out and have fun and play like you do back at home. If you bring the same attitude, it will all pay off out here. It is an adjustment. The large crowds and everything. I'm just having a great time. I'm going to try to keep myself in the golf course and see what happens."
He certainly did that on Saturday.
He was at 1-over-par for the day after bogeying the par-3 fourth hole, then reeled off four straight birdies, including one each at the par 5 fifth and seventh holes, to take a one-shot lead.
He fell back into a tie after bogeying 10, then birdied 11 and 12 at the difficult Muirfield Village Golf Course.
On the par 5 11th, Bettencourt stuck his third-shot approach to within six inches, nearly holing out for eagle after his shot flew past the hole by about 12 feet, then sucked back just past the hole on the low side.
On the next hole, a 156-yard par 3, he hit his nine-iron pin-high to about six feet, then drained the putt.
Just before he hit his putt, CBS commentator Gary McCord was getting fired up about Bettencourt's play, marveling at the fact that he's a 34-year-old rookie trying to make his mark on one of golf's biggest stages.
"You gotta make this one after that heroic tee shot. ... Matt Bettencourt ... Yeah ... all right!" McCord told the national TV audience. "Nick Faldo. This is a rookie. He hasn't played at all. You look at his stats, and they're just awful. Nothing good about them. All of a sudden, he's got a shot lead, now two-shot lead in this tournament. Where does that come from?"
Faldo: "It's all in the eye, Gary. ... when you come to a place like this. He's probably just in awe of it. Doesn't realize where he is."
Bettencourt, who if he wins will pick up a paycheck of just over $1 million, got plenty of face time on CBS.
As Bettencourt prepared for his par putt on the 18th, CBS host Jim Nantz, alongside Nicklaus in the booth, talked about seeing Bettencourt before the round.
"Jack, I happened to be there with you, and our producer, having a little bite of lunch, when this young man came up and introduced himself and said, 'Thank you' before the round," Nantz told Nicklaus. "I could tell how much you appreciated that and he walked right outside to go begin this great round."
Nicklaus seemed to appreciate it, and talked about how much his tournament is for the players. That's evident by the first-class field that comes to play.
During the nearly four hours of coverage, there were mentions of Bettencourt's time at Modesto Junior College and of how he sold shower doors while continuing to find his way in this difficult profession. Nantz talked about how Bettencourt is a twin, and how much his family "back in California" was enjoying this day.
Bettencourt tees off Sunday at 10:45 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The Golf Channel begins its early coverage Sunday at 9 a.m., and CBS (KOVR, Ch. 13) follows at 11:30 a.m.
Click here to see Bettencourt's scorecard.