Tiger Woods in contention but Brooks Koepka leads US PGA after third round | Sport

There was a time when the prospect of being denied a 15th major championship win by a misbehaving putter would have felt like an unattainable dream for Tiger Woods. Last month, at the Open Championship, Woods went so far as to suggest golf’s oldest major provides his greatest opportunity of adding to his haul of 14.
Perhaps Woods – uncharacteristically so in public – was overly hasty. Maybe all of us were when pointing towards his demise. The most astonishing chapter of an already remarkable career may yet be played out on the outskirts of St Louis. But for a series of missed chances over the closing nine holes of his US PGA Championship third round, Woods would be even closer to making history. A third round of 66 here means Woods is eight under par and within touching distance. For now, it is only that.
As the world No 1 Dustin Johnson wilted in the Missouri heat Woods produced a tee to green display that made his first two holes of this tournament – after which he lay three over par – seem like another movie altogether. And yet, it would have been so much better for those desperate for a Woods victory had he putted in the manner once customary. Woods has never won a major when starting Sunday adrift of the lead, and so history is not on his side at this point. The galleries, running 10 deep at times, unquestionably are.
Woods was coy when asked what another major triumph would mean to him. “There’s a long way to go before that happens,” he said. “I’ve got to shoot a low round tomorrow and hopefully it will be enough.”

A fundamental problem for Woods, and the remainder of the contenders in this, the 100th US PGA version, is Brooks Koepka. The US Open champion was generally nerveless on day three and gained a grip on the championship which will be hard for anybody to loosen. Koepka’s third round front nine of 30 was merely his latest statement of intent. Koepka – emotionless, unflappable – was almost robotic in his approach before an unforeseen wobble.
When he bogeyed the 14th, it was his first scorecard aberration in 44 tournament holes. Koepka proceeded to fire his drive at the 15th to the bottom of a tree. A necessary penalty drop suddenly afforded hope to a batch of hungry golfers. Yet Koepka’s 66 ensured he finished Saturday with the advantage, of two, from a rejuvenated Adam Scott. The latter hasn’t had a worldwide top-five finish in two years.
Koepka sits at 12 under par. Jon Rahm, boosted by a third round 66, is three back alongside Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland. Woods has Stewart Cink, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Shane Lowry and Charl Schwartzel for minus-eight company.
Woods had completed the inward half of his second round on Saturday morning, owing to the storm suspension from the day before. Understandably, that triggered suspicion over whether his battered body would cope. The answer was delivered in emphatic style: Woods produced five birdies when reaching the turn in 31.
Momentum-halting pars followed, with Woods wasting birdie chances on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th. The par five 17th, reduced to two-shot yardage of 550 yards, provided scope for Woods to leap into solo second place. Despite hitting the green with a drive and towering approach, he three-putted woefully from 19ft. At the last, Woods’s birdie try came up short. Oh what might have been.
“I’m tired,” Woods admitted. “It takes a lot out of you. I could have been a little bit closer but I have a shot going into tomorrow.”
Jordan Spieth had reached seven under and at that stage within four of the lead before encountering chaos at the 12th. Spieth, who needs only this event to complete a clean sweep of major wins, attempted an ambitious escape from woodland and only succeeded in cracking his ball against tree bark. The ball duly flew out of bounds. A triple bogey seven essentially spelled the end of Spieth’s tilt at the Wanamaker Trophy. His 69 leaves him at four under for the tournament. “I’m extremely excited about where my game is at but just very frustrated that I’ve worked my way into a chance to win this tournament to kind of throw it away on a bad decision,” said Spieth.

This was, however, a day to remember for one of Spieth’s playing partners. Matt Wallace was already enjoying his finest major performance – this marks his first weekend appearance in such an environment – before an ace at the 16th. Wallace used a five-iron for his hole in one at the 232 yard par three, with the endearing scale of his celebration illustrating the significance of the moment for the Englishman. “Even to play with Jordan on a major Saturday was one of the best experiences of my life,” said a beaming Wallace.
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Rory McIlroy’s challenge faded in different circumstances to Spieth. McIlroy’s second round of 67 would ordinarily have provided hope of troubling the leaders. Yet the 29-year-old has looked out of sorts for long spells this week. A Saturday afternoon 71 leaves McIlroy at two under and with realistic prospects only of a top-10 finish at best.
Johnson’s first third-round birdie arrived at the 15th; he was five over for the round at that stage. Too little, way too late. We cannot yet say the same of Woods.

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