ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - It was moving day at the PGA Championship and Tiger Woods had his foot on the gas, providing a massive crowd at sweltering Bellerive Country Club with a third round thrill ride as he powered into contention.
Ten years removed from his 14th and most recent major title, in many ways Woods’s four-under 66 was, for nine holes at least, a rollicking trip down Memory Lane, given the third round charges that were once his calling card having largely disappeared.
But for all the buzz Woods generated on Saturday, the reality is that capturing a 15th major from four shots back of the front-running Brooks Koepka will require something special.
“I just wish I could have got myself a couple more shots closer to the lead,” lamented Woods. “I’m going to be back behind the lead probably at least four now.
“And tomorrow, not just myself, but everyone’s going to have to shoot low rounds.”
It was a marathon day of golf for Woods who was one of 77 players pulling double duty to complete his rain-interrupted second round while putting his surgically repaired back to the test.
The 42-year-old certainly did not lack for pep to start his third round, carding birdies on his opening two holes to send a jolt of electricity through the parkland layout.
As word spread that Woods was on the charge, those who weren’t already following the former world number one were soon scrambling to join crowds that were 12-deep and lined nearly every hole from tee to green.
A bogey at five was followed by a run of three straight birdies, each ratcheting up the excitement.
But just as the party neared frenzy mode, Woods’s charge tapered with a string of 10 consecutive pars.
He had a chance to revive the hysteria with a crack at eagle at the 17th, only to three-putt for yet another par.
“I left pretty much every single putt short on the back nine,” said Woods. “The greens were getting fuzzy, they’re getting slow, and I didn’t hit the putts quite hard enough.
“I made sure on 17 I did. And I blew it by about four feet and then pulled the next one.”
Woods may not have been happy with his putting but had to be pleased with the performance of his back.
Still on the comeback trail from spinal fusion surgery eight months ago, Woods passed the stern fitness test without incident.
“I’m tired. I am definitely tired,” said Woods, who sweated through four shirts in his opening five holes.
“Twenty-nine holes, it’s not necessarily the physical, it’s this mentally grinding that hard for 29 holes in this heat.
“It was a long day.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ian Ransom