Tiger charges while Woodland fires 64 at storm-hit Medinah

Washington (AFP) –


Reigning Masters champion Tiger Woods matched his lowest round since February while reigning US Open champion Gary Woodland nearly equaled Medinah's course record in Saturday's storm-hit third round of the US PGA BMW Championship.

Sixth-ranked Woods, trying to finish well enough to qualify for a chance at defending his title in next week's season-ending Tour Championship, fired a bogey-free five-under par 67 to stand on seven-under 209 after 54 holes at the suburban Chicago course where he won the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships.

"We'll see," Woods said of his Tour Championship qualifying odds. "At least I have a chance."

Woods had not shot a lower 18 holes since firing a 66 in the second round of the WGC Mexico Championship. He had not fired a bogey-free round since last year's BMW third round at Aronimink.

Woodland fired an eight-under par 64 on the rain-softened layout to seize the early clubhouse lead on 207, but missed a seven-foot birdie putt at 18 that would have matched the course record.

"I had it all clicking," Woodland said. "I haven't hit it this well in a long time. I wish I had made that putt but all in all I feel great and I'm ready to come back tomorrow."

Woodland's round, the second-best ever at Medinah, was one stroke off the course record 63 fired Friday by Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who teed after just minutes after Woods finished still atop the leaderboard at 12-under after waiting through a 75-minute storm delay to start.

The US PGA playoff event will decide the 30 season points leaders who qualify for next week's showdown at East Lake in Atlanta.

Woods, a 15-time major winner chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, has won 81 career PGA titles, one shy of matching sam Snead's all-time record.

The 43-year-old American withdrew from last week's event at Liberty National with a strained oblique, dropping him out of the top 30 in season points.

That forces Woods, who has said he feels fine this week, to finish about 11th this week to earn a berth at East Lake, where his dramatic victory last September snapped a six-year win drought and signaled a return to full form after spinal fusion surgery Woods feared might end his career.

- 'Hard to fathom' -

Woods birdied the par-4 fourth on an eight-foot putt and sank one half as long to birdie the par-5 seventh.

He added a tap-in birdie at the par-5 10th, an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-5 14th and rolled in a 26-footer to birdie the par-4 16th.

"What's crazy is that there's only one person over par in the entire field," Woods said. "It's hard to fathom we're all scoring this well."

Woodland ran off three consecutive birdies starting at the par-5 fifth hole, added birdies at 10 and 12 and ran off three in a row again starting at the 15th.

He found a fairway bunker off the last tee just before storms halted play, then dropped his approach to seven feet when play resumed but missed the record-tying putt.