Dustin Johnson moved into a share of the lead with Carlos Ortiz after the second round of the LIV Golf Series stop in Portland on Friday.
Johnson, the former world No 1 whose two major titles include the 2020 Masters, briefly threatened to make it a runaway before three late bogeys saw him settle for a four-under par 68 and an eight-under total at Pumpkin Ridge.
The American, 38, goes into the final round of the 54-hole, shotgun start event level with overnight leader Ortiz, who birdied the final hole to cap a 69. They are two strokes ahead of South African Branden Grace, who also signed for a 69.
"I'm really happy with the way I'm swinging it," said Johnson, who at 17th in the world is the highest-ranked player to make the jump to the lucrative new circuit. "Tomorrow I just need to go and do the same thing, just drive in the fairway."
Johnson made his LIV debut in the inaugural event in the UK last month while Mexico's Ortiz is playing for the first time.
Ortiz, who won his lone PGA Tour title at the Houston Open in 2020, joined the list of players suspended by the US circuit after teeing off in the upstart Saudi Arabia-backed series.
The DP World Tour has also sanctioned members lured by the massive paydays on offer that included signing bonus and a $20 million purse for this week's 48-player field with an additional $5m prize money on offer in a team competition.
DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley launched a scathing attack Friday on players who threatened the tour with legal action unless their sanctions – fines and suspensions – for competing in LIV Golf were rescinded.
Pelley called their demands, made in a letter that was published in The Telegraph, contained inaccuracies and that the players knew "there would be consequences if they chose money over competition."
Golf Digest reported on Friday that the series has accelerated growth plans for 2023 with 14 events rather than 10 and plans a name change to the LIV Golf League.
The report, citing an unnamed LIV Golf official, said the expansion is a product of signing several top players ahead of this week's event, including Americans Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, and Matthew Wolff.