Ian Poulter braved a close encounter with an alligator to remain in contention at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina.

The Englishman hit his tee shot off the 10th at Harbour Town Golf Links into the water, but had to endure more than a simple drop.

As he stood precariously on the bank, the huge reptile wanted a closer look at Poulter and his ball.

Poulter bravely attempted to get on with setting up for his shot while the gator looked on from worryingly close range.

While Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore chose to jump in the water and wrestle a gator into submission, Webb Simpson’s caddie managed to shoo it away with a club.

However, Poulter still had to plant his feet inches from the water’s edge with no way of knowing how close away the gator was lurking.

Poulter’s shot fell just short of the green and he managed to get away with a double bogey in an otherwise impressive round of 69 to finish fifth at 10 under.

“I took a couple of dummy swings and he decided to come in and take a closer look,” Poulter told Sky Sports.

“I wasn’t very comfortable with that. It’s a little unnerving. I didn’t want to put my club in the water because I didn’t want him to take it. One of the other caddies came in and was a bit more aggressive, and he went.”

He insisted the close shave didn’t have an impact on his game.

“No, not at all. My game feels good and I feel confident going into tomorrow,” he said.

At the top of the leaderboard Jason Dufner took over at the top of the leaderboard as England’s Luke Donald fell off the pace during the third round .

Donald has recorded six top-threes in his last eight appearances at the venue, and held a share of the halfway lead alongside Canada’s Graham DeLaet on 10 under par.

However, the former world number one, now down at 96th in the rankings after five years without victory on a major tour, made two bogeys against a solitary birdie in a third round 72.

That left him four off the pace in a share of sixth as Dufner surged into first place with a brilliant 65.

The former US PGA Championship winner twice made eagles on the front nine – from 14 feet on the second and a hole-out from the fairway on the fifth – and although there were three bogeys on his card they were offset by five birdies.

That left Dufner 13 under par, one ahead of DeLaet, who signed for a two under 69.

“It was a little bit of a roller coaster but it was good to pick up a couple of eagles,” Dufner told the PGA Tour website.

“The back nine was really clean, I was really happy with how I played on the back nine – hopefully that will bode well for tomorrow’s final round.”

Former US Open champion Webb Simpson and American Kevin Kisner are a shot further back in third.