Woods Tied For 6th Heading Into Sunday
St. Louis – For the second time in three weeks, Tiger Woods has put himself in position to win his 15th major title.
He earned the early back-nine lead in the final round of the Open Championship at Carnoustie last month, eventually tying for sixth. Now Woods has a chance in the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club after a pair of 4-under 66s.
“I’ve got a shot tomorrow,” the 42-year-old Woods said Saturday after playing 29 holes in 90-degree heat and stifling humidity.
It was the first time since the 2005 Masters that he has posted back-to-back rounds of 66 or lower in a major championship.
Through 54 holes, Woods is deadlocked with five players at 8-under 202. Brooks Koepka sits atop the packed leaderboard at 12-under 198. Woods is two shots out of second.
A four-time champion, he is 11-under par in his last 52 holes beginning bogey-double-bogey on Thursday.
Unable to complete Friday’s second round because play was stopped due to dangerous weather Woods resumed play Saturday morning at 7 a.m. CT on the par-5 eighth hole. Already 3-under for the round, he wedged to five feet and made the birdie putt.
After turning in 4-under 31, Woods shot even-par 35 on the back. Paired with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, he missed a short putt for par on 10, then recorded a bounce-back birdie at 11 – something he has done most of the year – spinning his approach two feet from the cup.
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It seemed like the majority of the sellout crowd was following Woods’ group. Tee to green, the gallery was 20-deep.
A second straight errant drive led to another bogey at the par-4 12th. Woods slashed his second shot from heavy rough to the front of the green, but three-putted from 101 feet.
He steadied with four pars, then carded his sixth birdie at the par-5 17th, converting a tap-in after two nice shots carried to the front of the green. Wood did well to two-putt the par-4 18th from 88 feet, making a testy five-footer to finish with 66 and moved into a tie for 19th at 4-under, six strokes behind Gary Woodland.
Woods hit eight of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and tallied 29 putts.
After a meal and short rest, he returned to Bellerive for the third round. Paired with former major winners Stewart Cink and Webb Simpson, Woods wasted no time making a move.
He canned a 17-foot birdie at the par-4 first, then nestled a 9-iron from 145 yards within two feet of the pin at the par-4 second to secure his second in a row.
Woods made a terrific save at the par-4 fourth after hooking his drive into the left rough. He slashed his second shot about 90 yards short of the green, then almost dunked a perfectly-judged wedge, the ball stopping a foot from the hole.
At the par-4 fifth, he dropped a stroke, running a lengthy, downhill birdie putt five feet past the cup and caught the left edge coming back.
“I shouldn’t have been that aggressive and it cost me,” Woods said.
On cue, he regained the lost shot by rolling in an 11-foot birdie putt at the 198-yard par-3 sixth, and was just getting started. A sweet approach let to a seven-foot birdie at the par-4 seventh, and Woods made it three-straight by punching a wedge just inside the same distance at the par-5 eighth to pull within two strokes of the lead.
With the enormous crowd continuing to grow, Woods two-putted for par from just off the back fringe at the par-4 ninth to make the turn in 4-under 31.
Woods missed only one green on the back side and gave himself several quality birdie opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize. He carded nine consecutive pars.
At the par-4 10th, Woods delivered another remarkable save. Having bogeyed the tough 502-yard hole twice previously, he blocked a driver into the right rough, gouged his second shot 100 yards from the green, then knocked his third 10 feet from cup. Woods drained it.
“That was a big putt,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose one there.”
Toweling off sweat before almost every swing, Woods had good birdie chances at 11-through-15, but never felt comfortable with the speed. He said the greens got slower as the round progressed.
Between rounds, the putting surfaces were rolled but not cut.
Woods nearly dropped a 40-foot bomb at the par-3 16th, leaving the ball six-inches short of the cup. But his biggest disappointment of the day was a three-putt par at 17, where the tee was moved up 40 yards.
Following a nice drive, he reached the green in two, fading a gorgeous 4-iron from 240 yards 20 feet right of the hole. The fans were ready to explode, anticipating a Woods’ putt for eagle. But he ran it four feet by and pulled the come-backer.
“I left pretty much every putt short on the back nine,” said Woods. “The greens were getting fuzzy, they’re getting slow, and I didn’t hit the putts quite hard enough.”
He piped a drive at 18 and flushed a wedge 14 feet below hole but couldn’t convert.
Aside from a few errant drives, Woods’ ball-striking was brilliant. He hit 10 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens and accumulated 30 putts.
“I thought I played really clean cards, really clean rounds,” said Woods. I just wish I could have got myself a couple shots closer to the lead, especially with the way 17 is playing.”
Saturday’s have been his strong-suit all season. He ranks third on the PGA Tour in third round scoring average at 68.64.
Cink savored the round.
“Being in Tiger’s group is always exciting,” he said. “It’s a pretty intense environment out there. It was a lot fun of hearing the crowd, and Tiger’s performing great. It was like turning back the hands of the clock.”
Not surprisingly, Woods was drained. He went through three shirts Saturday.
“I’m tired,” Woods said. “It’s not necessarily physical; it’s mentally grinding that hard for 29 holes in this heat. It was a long day.”
Due to injuries, he is competing in the PGA for the first time since 2015. This marks the first time Woods has been inside the top-10 after 54 holes in consecutive majors since the 2012 Open and PGA Championships.
Koepka will try to become just the fifth player in history to capture the U.S. Open and PGA in the same year. Woods was the last to accomplish the feat in 2000 at Pebble Beach and Valhalla.
On Sunday, Woods starts in the third-to-last group at 2:35 p.m. ET with Woodland. Through three rounds, Woods is a combined 10-under on the front nine and 2-over on the back.
“I need another low round,” he said. “The golf course is playing soft, it’s gettable, you have to make birdies.”
At Carnoustie, Woods began the final round four strokes off the pace. Should he win, Woods would match Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus for the most PGA Championship victories with five.