ST. LOUIS – Tiger Woods opened with back-to-back birdies in Saturday’s third round of the PGA Championship, leaping into the top 10 as he challenges for his first major victory in more than a decade.
The 14-time major champion, whose last major triumph came at the 2008 US Open, stood on six-under par after sinking a 17-foot birdie putt at the first hole and dropping his approach to four feet and holing out at the second.
He tapped in for par at the par-3 third.
The 42-year-old American’s sizzling start, after finishing off the last 11 holes of a second-round 66 on Saturday morning, put Woods into a share of ninth with leaders still to start their rounds at Bellerive Country Club.
Former world number one Woods, ranked 51st, is in the eighth month of a comeback from spinal fusion surgery, but led on Sunday in last month’s Open Championship.
Woods remained four strokes behind leader Gary Woodland, who was set to tee off in the final threesome with fellow Americans Kevin Kisner, one stroke off the pace, and US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who shared third with Rickie Fowler on eight-under.
Ninth-ranked Fowler, seeking his first major title despite eight top-five major finishes, and Ireland’s Shane Lowry charged into contention on Saturday morning.
Fowler shot 67, while Lowry shot 64 to share fifth as the storm-interrupted second round was concluded.
Organizers sent off the 80 who made the cut in trios and on the front and back nines, due to the short turnaround in hopes of finishing the third round by sunset.
“It’s going to be a long day,” Fowler said.
Lowry, who hasn’t had a top-10 finish this year and hasn’t won since 2015, was on seven-under in a pack with top-ranked Dustin Johnson, South African Charl Schwartzel and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.
“Things haven’t been going well for me this year. The last few weeks have been good,” Lowry said.
“I have my brother on the bag, and he’s doing a great job. And now we’re going out on a Saturday afternoon in the mix at the PGA, it’s great.
“I have my dad here to watch. Look, it doesn’t get much better.”
Second-ranked defending champion Justin Thomas had five morning birdies against a lone bogey to conclude a 65.
“I was happy to finally see some putts go in,” Thomas said. “I just need to make a lot of birdies.”
LIVE look-in of the https://t.co/vPJKS9d0LZ featured group: @TigerWoods, @JustinThomas34 and @McIlroyRory finishing Round 2 on Saturday morning of the 2018 #PGAChamp! Watch Full Coverage on https://t.co/vPJKS9d0LZ: https://t.co/ZIynlKkX0N https://t.co/Cp5fIclbEy— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) August 11, 2018
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, whose morning 67 was highlighted by a 58-foot chip-in at 14, had two bogeys against a birdie at the second in the first five holes in round three.
American Tony Finau, who made the cut on the number on 140, matched Gary Player’s tournament record with 10 birdies in his second round, but only shot 66 thanks in part to a triple bogey at the par-3 sixth.
.@tonyfinaugolf ties the #PGAChamp record for 10 birdies in a single round -- tying @GaryPlayer's record set in 1984.— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) August 11, 2018
"to be mentioned in the same breath as him as far as major championships is pretty cool for me at this point in my career."-Finau pic.twitter.com/FRyxq4n82J
Finau’s front nine of seven birdies and a bogey plus the triple was the event’s first nine-hole run since 1984 without a par.
He’s the only player with three major top-10 efforts this year, with a best of fifth at the US Open.