CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tiger Woods said he feels like he’s on the verge of putting it all together and winning his first PGA tournament in five years — if he can just start rolling the ball a little better on the greens.
The 42-year-old Woods made some significant progress in that area Saturday for a 3-under 68. He hasn’t shot worse than par in the third round in six events this year. But it wasn’t good enough to make up a lot of ground, and it wasn’t nearly as bold as the moves from Phil Mickelson (64) or Rory McIlroy (66). They were tied with him at the start of the day.
“I’m close,” Woods said. “I’m hitting the ball well enough to contend, to win this golf tournament, but I just haven’t made putts.”
He had to wait to see how far back he was at the end of the day to see if he had a remote chance at making a run.
“Maybe I can play a low one and see what happens,” said Woods, who has won 79 career PGA Tour events and 105 professional tournaments overall. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball well enough and just trending in the right direction for next week.”
The greens at Quail Hollow have perplexed Woods all week.
In his mind, the pace of the greens is faster than they really are. That forced Woods to make changes to his stroke Saturday.
“I made it a little more handsy, kind of like how we used to putt when greens were so slow on public courses,” Woods said. “So I put a little more hit into my stroke, put a little more load, a little more hit and it worked out good, I hit some good putts. Also left a few out there, too.”
Woods was one of several golfers who began the third round at 2 over par, but he took advantage of playing in the morning under overcast skies and an easier course setup than the previous two rounds.
Mickelson had his lowest round of the season. McIlroy three-putted the 18th and still shot 66.
“There was a little bit more moisture on the greens so you could give them a little more pace and not have them run six or eight feet by,” said Mickelson, who said he never knew a round of 7 under was possible when he teed off.
“The course was easier — maybe not quite 10 shots easier, but it was a few shots easier,” said McIlroy, who shot a 76 on Friday.
And as well as those star players performed, they couldn’t match Peter Uihlein, who shot 62 after a six-hole stretch that included five birdies and an eagle.
It was the best round at Quail Hollow since McIlroy’s 61 in the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship in which he crushed the field. McIlroy’s score came before a course change at Quail Hollow, when par was 72.
“My 61 was better,” McIlroy said with a laugh. “… It’s a different course. I mean, 9 under around this place is pretty good.”
Uihlein, who is seeking his first PGA Tour win, didn’t have much time to celebrate before being taken to be randomly drug tested.
“It’s totally ironic,” Uihlein said. “First low round of the year, I feel like, and I have to go (urinate) in a cup.”