At the midpoint of the 2012 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods held a share of the lead at 4-under and was considered a heavy 1/1 favorite to win his 15th career major. But in a trend we've seen with Woods at all the majors this summer, the favorite struggled mightily on Saturday, dropping shots, coming back to the field, and relinquishing the lead. If Woods fails to win on Sunday, an outward 40 on his third-round front nine will be the one stretch that he can look back on with regret.
Of course, that nine-hole stretch covered two days, as Saturday's play was interrupted by a nasty storm along the Carolina coast. While Woods made up some ground, coming in with a 34, he was still frustrated with his third-round 2-over 74. Woods has been inconsistent with his putter all summer, but he had been hot with the flatstick on the weekend at Firestone and again through the first two rounds at Kiawah. But he came out on Saturday and struggled right off the bat with his putter, and that persisted as he finished up his third round on Sunday morning. He also cited frustration with unusually slow greens on Sunday morning. Via Helen Ross of PGATour.com:
"I had a few good looks at it today, and I just couldn't believe how slow these greens were this morning," Woods said. "I don't know if they cut them or not, but they were just a lot slower. They're slower than the putting green. Vijay (Singh) and I were talking about that a little bit today, and it was surprising that they're not the same speed. We both struggled getting the balls to the hole."
A combination of the slower, stickier paspalum surface and the heavy rains on the island all week have certainly made the greens slower than Tour pros are accustomed to playing in the States. They were reportedly rolling around 11 on the stimpmeter early in the week, but Woods seems particularly irked at the difference between the practice surface and the greens out on the course.
Despite the putting inconsistencies, Woods still salvaged his chances with that 34 on the back side. He indicated that he played his way "back" into the tournament, even with a bogey on the difficult par-3 17th. Tiger is still five shots back of leader Rory McIlroy, but it doesn't sound like he'll get particularly aggressive during his final round to try and make a run at the young Northern Irishman, via PGATour.com:
"You know, just give myself chances, give myself looks," Woods said when asked about his strategy for the final round. "This golf course you can take a double and a triple in a heartbeat without hitting bad shots.
"Just keep myself there where I'm right in it with a few holes to go because, as we saw at the last major championship we played, anything can happen."
Woods was criticized for his conservative "game plan" at Lytham, a phrase he used repeatedly in speaking with the media after each round. But that approach kept him in it throughout and nearly paid off with Adam Scott's collapse.
He'll start his final round paired with Vijay Singh again, going off at 1:23 p.m. ET.