Tiger Woods seemed to leave a lot out there, and yet he’s in contention heading into Sunday.
The 42-year-old fired his second straight 4-under 66 Saturday afternoon at the PGA Championship to move to 8 under through 54 holes. When he reached the clubhouse, he was in a tie for third and four off the lead held by Brooks Koepka.
When the round concluded, Woods would be T-6 and indeed four back, as Koepka finished at 12-under 198.
It was a long day for Woods, who had to finish the final 11 holes of his second round in the morning due to delays the previous afternoon. He played those 11 in 1 under to fashion a second-round 66.
The afternoon came, he charged up the leaderboard in the third round and he’s right in contention for his 15th major and first in 10 years, but there was still an element Saturday afternoon of what could’ve been.
Woods got off to another hot start in Round 3, burying a 17-footer for birdie at the par-4 opening hole and firing his approach at the par-4 second inside 5 feet. He rolled in the putt to begin birdie-birdie.
He didn’t capitalize right away, though, as Woods hit a spectacular pitch at the par-4 fourth that came within inches of dropping for birdie. But he needed that great play in the first place just to save par. He then three-putted for bogey from 60 feet at the par-4 fifth.
But Woods wasn’t going to be deterred. He came right back and buried an 11-footer for birdie at the difficult par-3 sixth. Lasered approaches to 7 and 6 feet at Nos. 7 and 8 led to two more birdies. After his three consecutive birdies, Woods had rocketed to 8 under and within two of the lead.
He had five birdies in eight holes and was cruising up the leaderboard. But as has happened often for Woods this season, he couldn’t keep the red-hot play going for the full round.
After bogeys the first two rounds at the par-4 10th, Woods appeared headed toward another after an errant drive right forced a lay up. But he wedged to 10 feet and drained the putt for a crucial par. He offered a spirited fist pump following the save, knowing its importance.
Yet, that key momentum-saver didn’t push him forward.
Woods left himself birdies putts inside 21 feet on the next five holes but got none of them to drop as most couldn’t seem to find the right line. He appeared visibly frustrated after an 8-footer at the par-4 14th missed low and left.
As Woods got stuck in neutral, Koepka was rolling off birdies and moved to 13 under. That pushed Woods a full five behind.
It seemed finally Woods would start pushing up again after he hit a beautiful 4-iron from about 250 yards at the par-5 17th inside 20 feet. That eagle putt would move him to solo second and within three of the lead if he could get it to drop.
Woods appeared to know it and put too much into the stroke, racing it 4 feet by. He then hit the left lip on his comebacker. He had to make a 3-foot returner just to three-putt for par. He did just that, but it was still a demoralizing moment.
It didn’t get better at the 18th – even as he moved into a tie for second briefly anyway after an Adam Scott bogey – as he was woefully left and low on a 15-footer for birdie. That meant 10 closing pars despite being inside 20 feet basically on seven of his last eight holes for birdie.
That may’ve been tough to watch, but for the second straight major Woods is in the thick of contention heading into Sunday. (And let’s not forget that he began this tournament bogey-double bogey. This thing easily could’ve been over for him after two holes, and yet he’s played his next 52 in 11 under to put himself in the thick of it.)
Whatever disappointment came out of late Saturday, it’s still quite remarkable he has a decent chance to win a major after 54 holes twice in a year considering where he was in 2017 (as in injured and not playing competitive golf).
He began Sunday at Carnoustie last month four back and had the lead on the back nine but couldn’t close out (falling to a tie for sixth).
Can he make that same charge this Sunday and then hold off the challengers? It’ll be a big ask, but the possibility is there.