Woods two ahead after testing day at Sherwood

Sat Dec 7, 2013 8:48pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

THOUSAND OAKS, California (Reuters) - Tiger Woods stayed on track for his sixth victory of the year as he maintained a two-shot lead after a brutally difficult day for scoring at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge on Saturday.

The American world number one ground out a level-par 72 in blustery winds with several tough pin positions at Sherwood Country Club to end the third round of the tournament which he hosts at 11-under 205.

In glorious late afternoon sunshine after a rainy start to the day, Woods rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-four last to retain control of an event he has won a record five times.

"It was a tough day," Woods, who frequently backed off shots as the breezes shifted, told reporters after offsetting four birdies with four bogeys.

"The wind was all over the place. It was really tough to pull clubs and the greens were softer. They were still pretty quick, and unless you got (the ball) above the hole, there are some really difficult pins out there.

"So it made it even more imperative to miss the ball in the right spots (below the hole), because we weren't going to always hit the ball tight. Obviously a lot of guys shot some higher numbers."

Compatriot Zach Johnson, the first-round leader, was alone in second place after sinking an 18-foot birdie putt at the last for a 72. Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, was a further two strokes back at seven under, after a 69.

Only four players in the elite field of 18 dipped under par for the day, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy the best of them with a six-birdie 68 that left him a distant 13 shots off the pace.   Continued...

Tiger Woods of the U.S. looks at his iPhone after using it to take a picture of playing partner Mark O'Meara on the 10th green, during a practice round for the 2010 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 6, 2010. REUTERS/Hans Deryk