Wood­land stays in front with big putt at Kapalua

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - SCOREBOARD - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON As­so­ci­ated Press KAPALUA, HAWAII

Gary Wood­land made a 65-foot ea­gle putt and fin­ished with a birdie for a 5-un­der 68 to keep his three-shot lead in the Sen­try Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons on Satur­day.

Rory Mcil­roy briefly caught him for the lead un­til the birdies stopped fall­ing. He shot 68 and starts the new year play­ing in the fi­nal group.

They were tied late in the third round when Mcil­roy missed a good birdie chance on two par 5s at No. 15 and No. 18. In the group be­hind him, Wood­land reached the front of the 15th green and watched his putt up the slope and into the grain drop for ea­gle, with the pin still in the hole.

He holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the tough­est pin po­si­tion at the 18th – front and right – to end the day where he started.

Wood­land was at 17un­der 202, and would love noth­ing bet­ter than to se­cure an­other trip to Kapalua in the first tour­na­ment of the year.

Marc Leish­man, who made a dou­ble bo­gey in the open­ing round and a triple bo­gey on Fri­day, lim­ited the dam­age to only one bo­gey. He had a 68 and was well in range, four shots be­hind.

Xan­der Schauf­fele (68) and Bryson Decham­beau (70) were five back.

The only downer for Wood­land was learn­ing that his grand­mother in Kansas had died Fri­day night. This is a fam­ily va­ca­tion for most of the Wood­land crew – for Christ­mas, he flew out 11 rel­a­tives.

“She’s been down­hill for a lit­tle while now,” Wood­land said. “It’s been tough. And you try to pre­pare for that, but you never re­ally can. Def­i­nitely will have a lit­tle ex­tra emo­tion with me, but we’ll get through it.”

It was a tough day of work on the course, as the trade wind re­turned stronger than ex­pected.

Mcil­roy man­aged to get through it with­out a bo­gey. He had a close call on the 16th, when he tried to atone for the missed birdie on the pre­vi­ous hole by go­ing at the flag and land­ing just over the green. He faced one of the fastest chips on the course, down the slope to­ward the Pa­cific hori­zon, and left it 12 short. He made his par to at least stay in range.

Mcil­roy spoke ear­lier in the week about play­ing in the last group six times last year. One of those was the Masters, the missing leg of the ca­reer Grand Slam, when he started two shots be­hind Pa­trick Reed and never chal­lenged. An­other was the Tour Cham­pi­onship, where he was three be­hind Tiger Woods and didn’t give him much of a fight.

“I prob­a­bly pushed a lit­tle too hard, and it didn’t re­ally work out for me,” Mcil­roy said. “I just have to go about my busi­ness. I didn’t make a bo­gey to­day, so I’ll make that a goal to­mor­row.”

It still will de­pend on Wood­land, a three-time win­ner on the PGA Tour who wants more vic­to­ries to show for his im­proved all-around game. His only mis­take on Satur­day was com­ing up just short of the green on No. 12 and missing a 5-foot par putt.

Wood­land was part of a crowded leader­board Fri­day when he pulled away with five straight birdies. This time, all he needed was one big putt. He laughed when it dropped, though he says it had noth­ing to do with sur­prise.

“I just saw some­body’s face in the back­ground. They weren’t too happy that the ball went in, so it made me laugh,” he said. “I en­joyed that.”

The last two win­ners at Kapalua, Dustin John­son and Justin Thomas, needed some­thing spe­cial Sun­day. Thomas shot a 70 and was seven be­hind, while John­son had 69 and was eight back.

Brooks Koepka shot 73 and was tied for 29th. He needed a two-way tie for eighth to re­main No. 1 in the world over Justin

Rose, one of three el­i­gi­ble play­ers for the win­ner­sonly field that is not at Kapalua this week.

MATT YORK AP

Gary Wood­land tosses his club af­ter missing a birdie putt on the 14th green dur­ing the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons on Satur­day in Kapalua, Hawaii.

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