Wi leads as Woods climbs Pebble leaderboard

Tiger Woods reacts to his tee shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Coming off an early bogey that put him eight shots behind, Tiger Woods was in a bunker to the left of the 13th fairway at Pebble Beach when he cut a 9-iron too much, sending it right of the green toward deep rough.

The ball caromed off a mound and onto the green and started rolling. And rolling. When it finally settled a foot below the hole, and the gallery’s cheers grew increasingly louder, Woods hung his head and smiled.

He went from possible bogey to unlikely birdie.

And with five birdies in a six-hole stretch, he went from the periphery of contention to the thick of it Saturday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, another step toward showing his game is on the way back.

“Looked like I was having a tough time making par, and I was making birdie, and off we go,” Woods said. “Sometimes, we need those types of momentum swings in a round, and from there, I made some putts.”

If nothing else, he made it interesting going into the final round of his PGA Tour debut.

Charlie Wi played bogey-free at Spyglass Hill for a 3-under 69 to build a three-shot lead over Ken Duke, who had a 65 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula.

Woods had a 5-under 67, his best Saturday score on the PGA Tour since the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and climbed within four shots of the lead. It’s the closest he has been to a 54-hole leader on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Masters.

Saturday at Pebble is all about the stars, as CBS Sports traditionally devotes its coverage to celebrities, from Ray Romano to Bill Murray dressed in camouflage while throwing a football to former San Francisco 49ers lineman Harris Barton.

Sunday will have some star power of its own.

Not only is Woods in the penultimate group – right in front of two players who have never won on the PGA Tour – he will be in the same group as longtime nemesis Phil Mickelson, who had a 70 at Pebble Beach despite playing the par 5s in 1 over.

Still in the mix is two-time Pebble Beach champion Dustin Johnson, former world No. 1 Vijay Singh and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, who was two shots off the lead at one point until a sloppy finish at Spyglass for a 72.

Wi is 0-for-162 on the PGA Tour and now has to face his demons of self-doubt – along with a familiar force in golf.

Woods couldn’t convert a share of the third-round lead with Robert Rock two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, but he is showing an upward trend. He has given himself a chance to win on the back nine of his last four stroke-play tournaments.

With a new swing, it’s starting to look like the old Tiger.

“But the scenario doesn’t change,” Woods said. “The ultimate goal is to win a golf tournament.”

That’s something Wi has never done. He was at 15-under 199, and he has a 54-hole lead for only the second time on tour. He had a one-shot lead at Colonial last year and was runner-up to David Toms.

This time, Wi will be in the last group with someone in a familiar spot. Duke is winless in 142 starts.

The last two weeks haven’t been too kind to 54-hole leaders, either. Kyle Stanley lost a five-shot lead at Torrey Pines, and Spencer Levin blew a six-shot lead the following week in the Phoenix Open. Both were going for their first PGA Tour win.

Your turn, Charlie.

“I haven’t really thought about that,” Wi said, when asked if it were a blessing or a burden to be in front. “But I enjoy being in the lead. It’s a lot more fun than trying to come from behind. I know that tonight is going to be very exciting, and I’m sure I won’t sleep as well as if I’m in 50th place. But that’s what we play for, and I’m really excited.”

Woods was at 11-under 203, having lost some momentum on the front nine at Pebble by missing a few fairways and hitting some ordinary wedge shots. He closed with seven pars.

Mickelson was at 9-under 205, along with Johnson and Hunter Mahan. Harrington was at 206, while another stroke back were Singh and Geoff Ogilvy.

Wi is No. 175 in the world, while Duke is at No. 258. They have combined for 304 starts without a win. Right behind them are Woods and Mickelson, who have combined for 18 majors and 110 PGA Tour wins.

“It’s really fun, especially when the big guys are up there,” Duke said. “That’s when everyone is out there watching. If you do perform well and play well, they will be watching you, as well. It’s going to be fun.”

With a short burst of birdies, it looked as though Woods was having a blast.

He rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th, and then had a 25-foot putt up the slope on the 15th. One of the amateurs in his group had a similar putt, so Woods was able to look at the break. He learned well, extending his left arm as he often does before the putt drops. And it did.

Woods made good birdie putts from 20 feet on the 17th and 8 feet on the 18th, where he also got a small break. Not wanting to hit driver in the first place because he couldn’t reach in two, he came out of the shot. It looked like it might go out-of-bounds until it hit a CBS spotter and settled behind the bunkers.

Woods made an easy birdie on the par-5 second, but that was hit. He had to save par on the short par-4 fourth from a bunker, and didn’t give himself enough good looks the rest of the way.

No matter. He moved up the leaderboard, higher than he has been in some time on this tour.

Woods played in the final group two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, tied for the lead with Rock, and he had his poorest day striking the ball and finished in a tie for third. Woods played in the final group at his Chevron World Challenge at the end of last year and birdied the last two holes to beat Zach Johnson.

Woods doesn’t distinguish between tours, or even official events. Winning is winning. Losing is losing. All he sees at the moment is progress, and it’s hard to deny it.

“My bad days and bad shots are not as bad as they used to be,” Woods said.

Wi is making his own brand of progress, getting more comfortable with his swing and being in contention. He talks often about the demons in his head, which is typical of most any golfer.

“I’m sure I’ll be fighting my demons all day tomorrow and it’s how I handle myself tomorrow,” Wi said. “It’s not what other players are doing. How I handle myself tomorrow is going to be the outcome of the tournament.”

DIVOTS: Joseph Bramlett, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, made an albatross on the 11th hole at Spyglass when he holed out from 187 yards with a 6-iron. He negated that with two double bogeys and shot 73. ... Among the amateurs to make the cut were Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who is playing Pebble Beach for the first time.

Associated Press

• • •

Tiger Tracker

No. 9, Par 4, 466 yards

Tiger blisters his drive at the ninth, but finds the left rough. He'll have 171 yards to the pin.

Woods hits a low approach that hops onto the front of the green. It should be an easy two-putt par to end the day.

Indeed, it is. Woods cleans up his par and puts the finishing touches on a 5-under 67.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 8, Par 4, 418 yards

Woods hits an iron up the left side of the fairway and should have a good look at the difficult eighth.

Tiger hits a fading approach shot into the green that continues to feed in toward the cup. His 218-yard approach leaves him 12 feet for birdie.

Tiger misses his speedy birdie attempt low and taps in for his sixth consecutive par.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 7, Par 3, 106 yards

At the little par-3 seventh, Woods flies his tee shot too far and can't take full advantage of the backspin, leaving himself a good 30 feet for birdie.

Tiger makes a good putt, but misses four inches outside left. He makes another par. It seems as though he's had a bit of a missed opportunity during this stretch, as he heads to the difficult eighth and ninth holes.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 6, Par 5, 513 yards

Tiger's tee shot finds the right side of the fairway at No. 6 and he'll be left with 251 yards to the flag.

Woods hits a 5-wood and takes a shot at the green, but he misses short and left, but his ball appears to be sitting up some 30 yards from the flag.

Not a great chip from Tiger, but he will have a 15-foot birdie chance at the sixth.

He misses his putt low and taps in for a par.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 5, Par 3, 188 yards

Woods finds the right side of the green at the par-3 fifth, leaving himself a 20-foot birdie attempt.

Putting straight up the hill, Woods misses just high and taps in for par at the fifth.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 4, Par 4, 331 yards

Tiger finds the middle of the fairway at No. 4, leaving himself just 118 yards into the green.

Woods misses the green short and finds the front-right bunker. His bunker shot settles up 10 feet from the hole and he'll have a lengthy par save attempt.

Tiger sinks the par-saving putt and moves on, three behind Charlie Wi.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 3, Par 4, 390 yards

Woods misses the fairway at No. 3 and finds the left rough. He'll have 147 yards to the stick.

Tiger's approach comes up short at the third, leaving him 12 yards to the hole. Woods chips his third shot inside two feet and taps in for par.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 2, Par 5, 502 yards

Woods pulls a 3-wood at the short par-5 second and finds the right side of the fairway. His second shot, a 5-wood, comes up 20 yards short of the get-able par 5. He'll still have a good birdie chance upcoming.

With an easy chip shot, Tiger nestles his third in to tap-in range. He'll kick in the birdie and move to 11 under, joining a now three-way tie for second.

Tiger on the day: 5 under (11 under total)

• • •

No. 1, Par 4, 381 yards

Woods misses the fairway with a 4-iron at the first, his 10th hole of the day. He'll have 168 yards to the pin from the right rough. Tiger comes up short with his approach shot and finds the front-right bunker.

Woods makes a steady up-and-down from the bunker and remains at 10 under.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (10 under total)

Elsewhere: Charlie Wi continues his ho-hum round, where he has made 9 pars and a birdie to sit at 13 under total. Padraig Harrington makes another birdie at Spyglass to move to 11 under and take over solo second.

• • •

No. 18, Par 5, 543 yards

So much for hitting the par-5 18th in two. . .

Tiger's driver goes flying after impact as he sprays his tee shot way right into the gallery. Woods catches a break by hitting a spectator, which could have kept his ball from going out of bounds. With an unobstructed second shot, Woods puts himself back in the fairway. He'll have 130 yards for his approach.

Tiger hits a checking wedge that stops 8 feet past the pin and he'll have yet another good look at birdie.

Woods gets the line again, this time from partner Tony Romo, and he pours in another birdie, his fifth in the past six holes. Tiger is now tied for second.

Tiger on the day: 4 under (10 under total)

• • •

No. 17, Par 3, 178 yards

With the pin in the front of the iconic 17th green, Tiger leaves his tee shot on the green, 22 feet below the hole.

Woods gets the line from Arjun Atwal's amateur partner and rolls his birdie putt right in the middle of the cup. He moves to 9 under total.

Tiger on the day: 3 under (9 under total)

• • •

No. 16, Par 4, 403 yards

Woods finds the fairway off the tee and leaves himself 157 yards to the flag. His approach nearly gets to pin-high, 23 feet left of the hole.

Tiger hits a good putt, but misses two inches left and taps in for par.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (8 under total)

• • •

No. 15, Par 4, 397 yards

Woods finds the fairway at the 15th, leaving 130 yards to the stick. He leaves his approach shot 22 feet below the hole and will have a birdie attempt upcoming.

Woods makes the uphill putt for his third straight birdie and moves into a tie for fourth. He's five behind leader Charlie Wi.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (8 under total)

• • •

No. 14, Par 5, 573 yards

Wielding a fairway wood, Woods finds the center of the fairway at the par-5 14th.

After laying up to 110 yards (albeit in the left rough), Woods will have another birdie attempt, putting his approach to 11 feet.

Tiger rolls in the putt at the 14th, his second straight birdie to move under par for the day.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (7 under total)

Elsewhere: An early birdie has Padraig Harrington in solo second at 9 under, while Charlie Wi birdies the fourth to move to 13 under.

• • •

No. 13, Par 4, 399 yards

Woods misses another fairway, this one at the 13th and will have 131 yards to the pin from the left bunker.

Tiger makes up for the bad tee shot with a little luck. Miss-hitting his bunker shot, he watches it roll to two feet from the pin. Woods converts the birdie and moves back to 6 under.

Tiger on the day: Even par (6 under total)

• • •

No. 12, Par 3, 202 yards

Yikes. Tiger misses the green way left at the 12th, leaving 30 yards to the pin. He pitches up to the green and leaves a 10-foot par-saving opportunity.

Woods misses the putt and taps in for bogey to fall back to a tie for 22nd.

Tiger on the day: 1 over (5 under total)

Elsewhere: Dustin Johnson bogeyed his first two holes to fall into a tie for eighth, leaving Charlie Wi four shots ahead of the field.

• • •

No. 11, Par 4, 380 yards

Tiger finds the rough at the short par-4 11th, hitting it 256 yards and finding the right rough.

With 118 yards to the pin, Tiger hits his approach to 22 feet and has another routine, two-putt par.

Tiger on the day: Even par (6 under total)

• • •

No. 10, Par 4, 446 yards

Tiger finds the center of the green on his opening tee shot, a 313-yard tee ball that leaves 133 to the pin. His approach shot leaves him with a 35-foot birdie attempt.

Tiger's birdie putt misses a foot right and he will tap in for an early par.

Tiger on the day: Even par (6 under total)

• • •

Round 2: Another 68 for Tiger

Tiger Tracker: Woods shot a second-round, 2-under 68 on Monterey Peninsula to get to 6 under entering the weekend at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Golfweek tracked his day, shot by shot.

• • •

Round 1: Tiger's 68 at Spyglass

Tiger Woods fired an opening 4-under 68 on Thursday and sits five shots back of three players, including Dustin Johnson. Check out how Woods' round broke down with our hole-by-hole Tiger Tracker. Click here for the story.

• • •

Follow LIVE on Twitter!

• Check out our new @GolfweekLive feed, where we keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings on the course. This week, we'll be all over the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Click here to follow our updates.

• • •

Hangin' with Tiger

Golfweek was granted exclusive access to Tiger Woods last week and had a chance to sit down and talk with him about his legacy, which taps into the new "Legacy Challenge" mode in the 2013 EA Sports PGA TOUR Tiger Woods game, slated for release in late March.

• Check out our exclusive video of Tiger, where he answers everything from what he remembers as a child to how he expects to keep on building his "legacy." Check out the video here.

• Also, check out our story on our time with Tiger, as well as cool screen grabs from the new EA Sports game. Click here for the story.

• • •

Tiger back at Pebble Beach

Odds-on favorite: Our Alex Miceli says that Tiger Woods is the oddsmakers' favorite this week. Check out our weekly PGA Tour odds column.

Star attraction: The attention of the golf world is back on the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, mostly thanks to Tiger Woods returning to one of his favorite venues. Check out the commentary here.

Fantasy Tip Sheet: Tiger is the pick of two of our fantasy panelists. One of his biggest foes is also getting some love. Check out our fantasy tips here.

• • •

The start of a beautiful rivalry?

• Alistair Tait can see just how good a friendly rivalry between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods could be for the game of golf. Column.

• • •

Tiger in Abu Dhabi

Could 2012 be a return to form? Tiger's peers weigh-in. Check out that story here.

Alistair Tait: Tiger needs to open up more in press conferences Read that story here.

Jim McCabe: Of course Tiger showed up for an appearance fee. Check out his tongue-in-cheek column here.

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