LAKE FOREST, Illinois (Reuters) - Jim Furyk, co-leader overnight with Brandt Snedeker, withstood strong runs from Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to move one stroke in front after Saturday’s third round of the BMW Championship.
Fresh from his stunning 12-under-par 59 on Friday, American Furyk recorded three birdies after the turn before bogeying the last for a two-under 69 on a sunny, breezy day at Conway Farms Golf Club where the course firmed up during the afternoon.
In pursuit of his first victory since the 2010 Tour Championship, Furyk played mainly rock-steady golf to post a 13-under total of 200 in the third of the PGA Tour’s four lucrative FedExCup playoff events.
The 43-year-old lipped out a long-range birdie attempt on the 18th green that would have put him three ahead of the chasing pack, then missed a par putt from five feet to card his second bogey of the day.
“I said yesterday leaving here that the goal was to go out and shoot a good number today, get myself in position to win this golf tournament,” Furyk, a 16-times champion on the PGA Tour, told reporters.
”There was a putt here or there, a wedge shot here or there, didn’t feel like I got a lot out of the front nine, but shot even par and then played pretty well on the back nine.
“I dropped that shot at 18, which I‘m disappointed about ... but I’ve got myself in good position, so rather than harp on the last hole, I’d probably tend to want to think about tomorrow and what I have to do to try to win a golf tournament.”
Stricker, who holed out with a sand wedge from the fairway to eagle the par-four 15th, was alone in second after shooting a 64, ahead of fellow Americans Snedeker (71), at 11 under, and Zach Johnson (69), at 10 under.
World number one Woods was a further shot back in fifth, having briefly got to within two of the lead with a storming run of six birdies in seven holes around the turn on the way to a 66.
Woods’ momentum stalled when he bogeyed the driveable 15th after dumping his tee shot into water but he birdied the last to end his round four strokes off the lead.
“I was caught between three-wood and five-wood and tried to hit a little soft cut three-wood and just hit a pull-straight ball right in the water,” Woods, seeking his sixth PGA Tour victory of the year, said of his tee shot on 15.
“But I had a nice little run to at least get myself in there where I have a chance tomorrow. I made a big bomb there at six, which was nice, and then I got hot from there.”
Woods, who was livid after being docked two strokes for a rules violation on his opening hole in Friday’s second round, launched his sizzling birdie run by draining a 30-footer at the par-three sixth.
Stricker, who is playing a limited schedule on the PGA Tour this season to spend more time with his family, was delighted to put himself in a good position to clinch his 13th victory on the U.S. circuit.
“Eight under (for the round) was kind of in the back of my mind, to try to get to 13 (under) for the tournament at the end of the day,” the 46-year-old said.
“I thought that wouldn’t be too far away. Came up a little bit short, but all in all, a good day. I gave myself a lot of opportunities, made some nice putts, drove the ball nicely, and then holing the shot at 15 always helps things out.”
Snedeker, who had opened with a 63 in the penultimate FedExCup playoff event of the season, left himself with plenty of work to do after bogeying three of the first five holes on Saturday.
”Today was a struggle,“ he said after mixing four birdies with four bogeys by the time he finished. ”I hit it really poorly pretty much all day.
“From where I drove the ball today, it’s a miracle I shot what I shot, so I‘m excited about that and get out of here with a chance tomorrow.”
Seventy players have qualified for the elite BMW Championship, the PGA Tour’s penultimate playoff event, and any improvement in the overall FedExCup points standings after Sunday’s final round could be crucial.
Of the 30 who advance to next week’s season-ending Tour Championship, any of the top five would automatically clinch FedExCup honors and a staggering $10 million bonus with victory in Atlanta.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry