Davis Love III took advantage of the benign conditions in the third round and fired a seven-under 63. He is tied for fourth place with Frank Lickliter, who shot a 65, at 12-under-par 198.
Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old who missed the cut by a stroke on Friday, was on the course reporting Saturday but the third round was all about the tournament and who would take the upper hand.
Frazar dropped a shot at the 13th hole to fall to 11-under par for the tournament. He sank a 15-footer for birdie at the 16th, then knocked his tee ball to 12 feet to set up his second consecutive birdie at the par-three 17th hole.
At the par-five closing hole at Waialae Country Club, Frazar missed the green with his second shot. From a collection area left of the green, Frazar chipped to two feet, then kicked in the birdie putt to go one ahead of the 2002 winner, Els.
'I felt like I was hitting it good enough to make some birdies,' said Frazar. 'I missed a couple of shots early. I got a little lazy. I didn't get too discouraged. There were plenty of holes left.'
Frazar opened with a bogey at the second hole but tallied three birdies in a six-hole span around the turn, including a birdie at the 12th. At the 13th, Frazar hit a solid iron shot but hit it in a bad spot and made bogey.
Frazar's birdie tear gave him the 54-hole lead for the fourth time on the PGA Tour and the first since last year's Phoenix Open. Even though he has held the lead with one round to go, Frazar has never visited the winner's circle since joining the tour in 1998.
'We've got another day to take care of before we can worry about the trophy,' conceded Frazar. 'Ernie's playing well as is Davis and Frank. It'll be fun tomorrow.'
Perhaps Frazar's biggest obstacle in getting victory No. 1 will be Els. The 2002 champion and No. 3 player in the world was only one-under after his first nine holes but got it going on the second nine.
Els birdied 12 from eight feet and 14 from almost 20 feet, then stuffed his tee shot to three feet at the par-three 17th. He tapped in the birdie putt to go to 13-under and seemed poised to go to 14-under with the reachable, par- five 18th to play.
Els drove into the right rough and played his second 50 yards short of the putting surface. The three-time major winner chunked a chip that failed to reach the green and instead he got up and down for par.
'I've got a chance,' said Els, who can become the first player to successfully defend his title at this event since Corey Pavin in 1987. 'And I've got to take my chance when I get it.'
Love holed out for an eagle and collected five additional birdies to get into position for his first victory at this event.
'I had some good things happen,' said Love, who shares the 18-hole record at this tournament with a 60 in 1994. 'It was one of those rounds that could have been a lot better, or it could have been a lot worse.'
Lickliter was in command throughout the tournament thanks to seven birdies and only one bogey in his first 11 holes. His birdies at the fifth and seventh holes each came from putts longer than 50 feet.
Things fell apart for Lickliter late in the round. At the 16th, Lickliter drove into the rough on the left and failed to save par. He landed in a greenside bunker at No. 17 and blasted out to three feet. Lickliter's trusty putter turned on him as he missed the short par-saving putt.
He stayed in the hunt thanks to a five-foot birdie at the 18th.
Paul Azinger, the 2000 champion, posted a four-under 66 and is tied for fifth place with second-round leader Stephen Allan. Allan only managed an even-par 70 and shares fifth with Azinger at 11-under-par 199.
Briny Baird shot a 66 on Saturday and is alone in seventh at minus-10.
Former U.S. Open champions Retief Goosen (65) and Corey Pavin (65) are tied with Stephen Ames (65), Craig Barlow (66) and John Riegger (67). The group is knotted at nine-under-par 201.