Woodland stays in front with big putt at Kapalua
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.”
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.