KAPALUA, Hawaii – Gary Woodland made an eagle putt of 65 feet and finished with a birdie for a five-under-par 68 to maintain his three-headed lead in the tournament of the champions on Saturday.
Rory McIlroy caught him shortly before the lead until the birds no longer fell. He shot 68 and will play in the last group on Sunday.
They were tied late in the third round when McIlroy missed a good birdie opportunity on two par-5's at No. 15 and No. 18. Woodland reached the front of the 15th green and looked how his putt came up the slope and in the grain drop for eagle, with the pin still in the hole.
He holed a 12-foot birdie putt at the most difficult pin position at 18 – front and right – to end the day at 17-under 202.
Marc Leishman, who made a double bogey in the opening round and a triple bogey on Friday, reduced the damage to only one bogey. He had a 68 and was well within reach, four shots behind. Xander Schauffele (68) and Bryson DeChambeau (70) were five back.
McIlroy got his round without a bogeyman. He spoke at the end of the 16th when he tried to reconcile the missed bird at the previous hole by going to the flag and landing just over the green. He had to deal with one of the fastest chips on the track, down the slope towards the horizon of the Pacific Ocean and left him 12 feet short. He made his par to stay at least in range.
"I've probably pushed a bit too hard and it did not really work for me," McIlroy said. "I just have to continue my business, I did not make a bogey today, so I'll make that a goal tomorrow."
The outcome will still depend on Woodland, a triple winner of the PGA Tour. His only mistake on Saturday was that he came at no. 12 on a short distance from the green and missed a 5-foot putt.
Woodland was part of an overcrowded Friday leaderboard when he drove away with five straight birdies. This time everything he needed was one big pit. He laughed when it fell, although he said it had nothing to do with surprise.
"I just saw someone's face in the background They were not so happy that the ball went in, so it made me laugh," he said. "I liked that."