LAKE FOREST, Illinois (Reuters) - Tiger Woods surged back into contention for the BMW Championship on Saturday, a day after he was left fuming after being docked two strokes for a rules violation in the second round.
Though he still disagreed with the penalty imposed on him for a moving ball, he was in much more upbeat mood after putting himself in position to clinch his sixth PGA Tour victory of the season after ending the third round four shots off the pace.
The world number one mounted his charge with an electrifying run of six birdies in seven holes from the par-three sixth on the way to a five-under-par 66 in the penultimate FedExCup playoff event of the year.
“I made a big bomb there at six, which was nice, and then I got hot from there,” Woods told reporters, referring to the 30-footer he drained to spark his birdie blitz.
“I had a nice little run to at least get myself in there where I have a chance tomorrow.”
Woods was in imperious form with his approach play after the turn, hitting his second shot to six inches at the 10th, his tee shot to six feet at the par-three 11th and his approach to inside two feet at the 12th to close to within two of the lead.
Though his momentum stalled when he missed a six-foot birdie putt at the par-five 14th and at the driveable par-four 15th, where he bogeyed after dumping his tee shot into water, he finished on a good note with a birdie at the last.
“(Caddie) Joey (LaCava) and I both misread that putt there at 14,” said Woods, who ended the day alone in fifth place at nine-under 204 but is projected to return to the top of the FedExCup points standings after Sunday’s final round.
“Thought it was going to go to the right because Sergio’s putt coming up the hill went left, so I thought my putt was going to go right. My putt ended up going left, and missing that one.”
Woods was paired with Sergio Garcia for the third round at Conway Farms Golf Club, the first time they have played together since the Spaniard’s much-publicized “fried chicken” jibe at the American’s expense in May.
“And then I had three-wood on 15,’ said Woods. “I was caught between three-wood and five-wood and tried to hit a little soft cut three-wood and just hit a pull-straight ball right in the water.”
Once Woods had finished his round and signed his card, he then spoke to a large group of reporters who were mainly interested in his reaction to the two-stroke penalty imposed on him the previous day.
On Friday, the 14-times major champion had refused to speak to the media after learning that he had been penalized for a rules violation on his opening hole during the second round.
“After seeing the video, I thought the ball just oscillated, and I thought that was it,” Woods said. “I thought that was the end of story. But they (rules officials) saw otherwise.
“They replayed it again and again and again, and I felt the same way. We had a very good discussion. I’ll end it at that.”
Woods fell foul of the rules officials after he struck his second shot over the back of the green at the par-four first under trees, then tried to remove a twig from his ball before playing his third.
Though Woods felt his ball had only oscillated before he ran up a double-bogey six there, video footage later showed that it had slightly shifted its position and his score was amended to a quadruple bogey eight.
Asked to assess his frustration level after being told of the penalty, he replied: “I was pretty hot because I felt like, as I said, nothing happened. I felt like the ball oscillated and that was it.
“I played the rest of the round grinding my tail off to get myself back in the tournament and then go from five to seven behind, that was tough.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Peter Rutherford