Los Angeles (AFP) – Tiger Woods charged into contention for a record-setting 83rd all-time US PGA title on Saturday, shooting a three-under par 69 as he chases a ninth career victory at Torrey Pines.
Woods began the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open six strokes adrift of leader Ryan Palmer, but stood on seven-under 209 after 54 holes, five back of leader Jon Rahm with the third-ranked Spaniard having two holes yet to finish.
«I’m going to have to shoot a pretty good round tomorrow,» Woods said. «I’ll have my work cut out for me. I’ll have go out there and post a number and hopefully it will be good enough.»
Second-ranked Rory McIlroy, needing a victory to return to world number one, moved into third with a stellar 67 to stand three adrift on 207, but the bid for history by Woods stole the spotlight.
The 44-year-old reigning Masters champion matched Sam Snead for the US PGA record of 82 triumphs with an October victory in Japan and could claim the mark alone on Sunday at the seaside San Diego layout.
Woods, a 15-time major winner, fought back from nine strokes down after 36 holes to win at Torrey Pines in 1999 and twice rallied from seven back in the last two rounds to win.
Fog delayed the start by two hours but Woods shone brightly once he began.
Woods blasted from a fairway bunker to 13 feet and sank the putt to open with a birdie, conquering the same first hole where he four-putted to a double bogey on Friday.
Woods curled in a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-3 third and rolled in a 17-foot chip to rescue par at the fourth.
After blasting out of the rough, Woods holed a 13-foot birdie putt at the par-5 sixth and dropped his approach three feet from the cup on the way to making birdie at the par-5 ninth to reach 8-under, only two off the lead.
«Most of my putts I made were all uphill,» Woods said. «It’s important to leave the ball in the correct spots, and when I did I poured them in there.»
Woods made bogey at the par-3 11th, coming up six-feet short on a 62-foot birdie bid and missing his par putt.
From there, Woods grinded out seven concluding pars, the most crucial on a 15-foot putt — his longest putt of the day — at the par-5 18th after he found bunkers off the tee and with his third shot.
«It was important to save the round after I made a bogey back there,» Woods said. «It was important to make that putt to salvage the round a little bit and get some momentum going for the round tomorrow.»
– McIlroy packs patience –
McIlroy sank a 19-foot birdie putt at the par-3 third, took his lone bogey at four, then birdied the par-5 sixth and ninth holes.
On the back nine, McIlroy birdied the par-4 12th and 15th and par-5 18th — the exact same trio of holes where he made bogeys on Friday.
«I hit the ball well off the tee. I gave myself plenty of chances,» said McIlroy. «If you can pack your patience around this place, just hang around, you should be OK.
«No one is going to go out here and shoot the lights out. If you keep putting it on the green and give yourself chances, you’re going to do well out here.»
As much as McIlroy wants to reclaim the world number one spot for the first time since 2015, the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland wants to capture a title missing from his collection.
«I’d love to (be number one),» McIlroy said. «I want to win a golf tournament. I’ve never won here before. That’s my goal here tomorrow — let’s go win a new event.»