KIAWAH ISLAND — Rory McIlroy, Vijay Singh and Adam Scott were surging, Carl Pettersson was holding steady and Tiger Woods was stumbling Saturday in the third round of the 94th PGA Championship.
All that could change before the final round begin Sunday at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course.
Play was suspended due to thunderstorms Saturday before any of the top four players reached the back nine, and will resume at 7:45 a.m. Sunday.
McIlroy vaulted into a tie for the lead with Singh at 6 under with a 4-under-par 32 on the front nine that included an up-and-down for par from a tree branch, Scott matched the 32 to pull within a shot of the lead, and Pettersson was even par through eight holes and two back.
Woods, seeking his 15th major and first in more than four years, was 3 over through seven holes and was one of the few leaders going backwards.
After the butchery of high winds and the highest scoring round in the history of the PGA Championship on Friday by about 1.5 shots at 78.1, the course was set up the shortest it’s been all week at 7,451 yards – 227 yards shorter than Thursday – pins were more accessible and the wind died down a bit from Friday.
“Those three things combined are why you saw the scores being a little bit better today,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy birdied the first two holes and saved par on the third despite his ball lodging in the limb of a dead tree near the middle of the fairway. McIlroy and several other people searched for the ball for several minutes before a cameraman alerted him it was above him in the branch.
He took a drop and one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie, hit an approach to 12 feet and made the par-saving putt.
“I’m like, ‘How can it be stuck in this thing?’” McIlroy said. “There’s no branches, no leaves for it to be stuck in. But it had wedged itself in between the tree bark and the actual tree, so I was just happy to get it up and down for four and move on to the next.”
He hit his tee shot on the 196-yard par-3 fifth hole into the wind to 6 feet and made birdie, then birdied the par-5 seventh and 174-yard eighth before taking a bogey on the ninth to fall back into a tie for the lead just before the horn to halt play.
McIlroy said he’s not bothered by having to suspend a hot round. “You know, the way I’m looking at it, I’m going into the final day of the final major of the season tied for the lead, so I mean, I can’t ask for much more,” McIlroy said. “… You’ve just got to take what you’re given and get on with it and make the best of it.”
Singh birdied the first and seventh holes while playing bogey-free through seven. The 49-year-old three-time major champion is trying to become the oldest major winner in history, breaking the record held by Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
Scott, seeking his first major and quick redemption after losing a four-stroke lead with four holes to play at the British Open three weeks ago, holed out from a bunker on the fifth hole and drained a 40-foot birdie putt en route to making birdies on four of his final five holes.
Woods appeared to be playing solid for the first three holes, but missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the third hole and his game spiraled downward from there. He hooked two shots well left on the par-4 fifth hole for his second straight bogey and hit two shots well right on the par-4 seventh hole before hooking another shot into sand left of the green, resulting in his third bogey in four holes.
“I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going,” Woods said. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.”
Pettersson, the winner of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island in April who has held at least a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds, had one bogey and one birdie through eight holes to remain at 4 under.
“I would have preferred to finish today,” Pettersson said. “I felt like I was playing pretty good. Anyway, who knows, maybe we get calm conditions in the morning, and we’ve got more holes left than anybody else so that might work to our advantage.”
Threesomes in the final round are set to tee off at 11:44 a.m. on both the first and 10th tees, and the lead threesome is scheduled to tee off at 1:45 p.m. The forecast is calling for possible showers early with clearing later, and moderate wind.
By the time the final round begins, one of the players a few shots off the lead and still on the course in the third round could become a major player.
“I’ve just got to come out guns blazing in the morning and try to finish 3- or 4-under par,” said 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who is 2 under and safely on the 12th fairway off the tee.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.