Putts won’t drop, but Tiger moves up any­way

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Ed­die Pells

ST. LOUIS » Tiger Woods knew the shot was good. He struck it pure from 240 yards on the 17th hole and started strut­ting down the fair­way, watch­ing the ball land 20 feet from the pin — one good putt away from an ea­gle that would have vaulted him into sec­ond place.

And Woods knew the putt was bad. He mus­cled it 3 feet past the hole, then pulled the come­backer off line and, af­ter set­tling for a dis­ap­point­ing par, he briefly grabbed the put­ter with both hands, as if to bend it, be­fore de­cid­ing better of it.

That par was the most dis­ap­point­ing of the 10 straight Woods made to fin­ish his third round Satur­day at the PGA Cham­pi­onship. He shot 4-un­der 66 to reach 8 un­der. That was four back of leader Brooks Koepka — well within strik­ing range, but not as good as it might’ve been.

“Could’ve been a lit­tle closer,” Woods said. “But I’ve got a shot go­ing into to­mor­row.”

For the third straight day at the wideopen, squishy Bel­lerive Coun­try Club, Woods hit the ball well from tee to green — he hit 15 greens in reg­u­la­tion — and looked ev­ery bit the con­tender he was three weeks ago at the British Open, where the cheers seemed louder and more heart­felt than they’d been in the past. It’s been much the same this week.

“Hear­ing the crowd, and Tiger’s per­form­ing great, it was like turn­ing back the hands of the clock,” said Ste­wart Cink, who played with Woods and also shot 4 un­der to also fin­ish four out of the lead.

But Tiger’s put­ter? It brought more moans than cheers to the fans, and more frus­tra­tion than joy to Woods.

He has not made a putt of longer than 17 feet over three days, and has only made five putts of more than 10 feet all week. As Satur­day’s round wore on, he was con­sis­tently com­ing up short as the al­ready soft greens got even slower; he had six birdie tries of 20 feet or less over the back nine and didn’t make one.

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

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tiger Woods re­acts to a missed birdie putt on the 11th green on Satur­day. The As­so­ci­ated Press

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