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Tiger prowling for first major title in decade after Koepka falters

UK & international sports | Published:

Woods is four shots off the lead after the penultimate day of the US PGA Championship.

PGA Championship Golf

Tiger Woods took route 66 towards a first major title since 2008 as a late stumble from Brooks Koepka threw the 100th US PGA Championship wide open.

Looking to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to win the US Open and US PGA in the same season, Koepka had raced to the turn in 30 and briefly enjoyed a five-shot lead at Bellerive Country Club.

And although he repaired some of the damage caused by dropped shots on the 14th and 15th with a birdie on the 17th, a third round of 66 left the 28-year-old American on 12 under par, just two shots ahead of former world number one Adam Scott.

Koepka’s lapse also brought many more players into the frame, with halfway leader Gary Woodland, Spain’s Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler on nine under and Woods four off the pace alongside defending champion Justin Thomas, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Jason Day, Stewart Cink and Charl Schwartzel.

Woods completed a 66 in the delayed second round on Saturday morning and added another in round three, but ran out of steam after a front nine of 31 and 10 closing pars included a three-putt from 20 feet on the 17th.

“I feel like I played well today,” said Woods, who only returned to competitive golf in November after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April last year.

“I played 29 holes, I think I dropped three shots today and two of those were three-putts.

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“I just wish I could have got myself a couple more shots closer to the lead but there aren’t a lot of guys up there in front of me.”

Woods had made the ideal start by holing from 15 feet for birdie on the first and five feet for another on the second, before almost chipping in on the fourth after finding trouble off the tee.

After changing his sweat-soaked shirt, Woods lost ground with a three-putt bogey on the fifth, but bounced back in style with birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth.

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The 42-year-old looked certain to end a string of pars when he fired a superb approach into the par-five 17th, only to charge the eagle attempt four feet past the hole and miss the return.

“I left pretty much every single putt short on the back nine,” Woods added.

“The greens were getting fuzzy and I didn’t hit the putts quite hard enough. And I made sure on 17 I did. I blew it by about four feet and then pulled the next one.”

Jordan Spieth’s chances of claiming the win he needs to complete the career grand slam effectively disappeared as he suffered a nightmare triple-bogey seven on the 12th.

Spieth had charged into contention with a front nine of 31 but after being fortunate to find his ball following a wild drive on the 12th, he saw his attempted recovery ricochet off a tree and fly out of bounds.

The 25-year-old is without a win since victory in the Open at Royal Birkdale last year and 12 months on there would be no repeat at Carnoustie, where he went into the final round with a share of the lead but stumbled to a closing, birdie-free 76.

At four under par Spieth ended the day eight off the lead and Rory McIlroy’s hopes of ending his major drought also vanished after a 71 left him 10 behind.

McIlroy bogeyed the opening hole after flying his approach over the green and although he responded immediately with a birdie on the next, further dropped shots on the fourth and seventh saw him tumble down the leaderboard.

Four years and a day after winning the last of his four major titles in the 2014 US PGA at Valhalla, McIlroy gave himself a glimmer of hope with birdies on the 10th and 11th, only for the 29-year-old to double bogey the next after a wayward drive.

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