On a day when most of the contenders were trending in the wrong direction, Scott Parel was thriving.

The venerable Firestone South course bared its teeth in Saturday's third round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship after two days that featured plenty of low scores.

Although some big names were getting chewed up, Parel feasted. Making five birdies over the last 10 holes, he fired a 3-under-par 67 — matching the day's low score — and was the sole leader at 5 under heading into Sunday's final round.

He finished it off in style, drilling a long birdie putt on the par-4 No. 18 for a one-stroke lead over second-round leader Retief Goosen.

"I don't know, 30 feet maybe," Parel estimated as the length of his putt. "It makes up — I had quite a few short ones on the front nine that I didn't make, so I guess it all evens out.

"It would be great if that happened [Sunday]," he said of the clutch putt. "But today is only Saturday, so the lead means nothing today."

He couldn't explain why others struggled on the course while he succeeded.

"I don't know," he said. "I thought it was pretty soft. The greens I felt were a little softer than what I thought they would be, so I was kind of surprised. I thought scoring behind me would be pretty good, so I don't know what happened."

And now he finds himself with a shot at his first major title. Not bad for an undersized guy who made his living as an engineer until he was 35. Then for years, Parel mostly played on satellite tours with brief appearances on the PGA Tour.

Now 54, he is in his third year as a regular member of the PGA Tour Champions. And he was a two-time winner in 2018 when he contended for the Schwab Cup, a season-long, earnings-based competition.

He earned a computer science degree at the University of Georgia, and worked at writing software until he decided to shift gears.

"Oh, I don't know, my wife eventually pushed me into it," Parel said. "I complained about working in a cubicle so long, she finally told me to get out and give this a shot."

Born in Pontiac, Mich., his family moved to Augusta, Ga., when he was 7 and that is where he still lives. And, yes, living in the home town of the Masters has much to do with his love of golf.

"Oh, for sure, 100 percent," Parel said. "I was an athlete growing up. I like to play all sports, but when you grow up in Augusta, it's hard not to get interested in golf."

He said golf was probably his third favorite sport, after football and baseball, growing up. But he finally got to attend the Masters when he worked on the scoreboard while in high school.

At 5-foot-5 and 170 pounds, he shows surprising power in his swing. Among the competitors this week, he was third after Saturday with an average driving distance of 290.7 yards.

"No, it's a good thing, yeah," he said of his lack of size. "In golf, that's a good thing, right? It doesn't really matter, your stature doesn't have a whole lot to do with it."

He also has the finesse. Parel was third heading into Sunday with an average of 27 putts per round.

He shot a first-round 66, followed by 72 and 67 for a 205 total. Goosen is one back at 4 under and three others — Steve Stricker, Kent Jones and Brandt Jobe are 3 under.

Parel admitted "it would be special to win a major."

"And that was one of my goals this year," he said. "To contend in majors and try to have a chance to win, so that's what I'm doing now."

And he likes working outside, instead of in the office.

"That's what I told everybody," Parel said. "A bad day out here is better than a good day in an office."