Albany: Gary Woodland once again came up trumps with a birdie-birdie finish to snatch the sole lead at the end of the third round of the Hero World Challenge on Saturday.
It was a tight leader board with six players separated by three shots. The six included host Tiger Woods, who has not won his own event since 2011 when it was held in California, is coming off with a win in Japan in his previous start. He is looking to round off the year with a third win – after the Masters and Zozo in Japan.
First-round co-leader, Woodland (68) birdied the 18th to vault past Henrik Stenson (68) as the day ended. Stenson, teeing up at his 50th event since his last win in 2017, was in a group ahead of Woodland. The Swedish was five-under through 17 and leading at 13-under before the bogey on 18th dropped him to 12-under.
Woodland came up next and birdied the same to sneak ahead to 13-under. Overnight leader Patrick Reed (74) dropped to 10-under and his card included a two-shot penalty for “improving his lie” on the Par-5 11th, about which he was asked and informed at the end of the round.
Woods for the second straight day equalled the best card at 67. Playing partner Justin Thomas had the other 67, said he had left quite a few shots out there. He was 11-under through 54 holes and tied with Thomas (67) and Jon Rahm (69), trying to match Wood’s feat of winning the Hero World Challenge in successive years.
For Woods, the 18th finally gave him some joy with a birdie after a bogey on the first day and a missed birdie on the second.
Woods getting ready ahead of the Presidents Cup as a playing captain next week in Australia, said: “I just have to focus on going out there and making birdies. And then I have 23 hours on a plane to recover.”
Woods will play the final round with Thomas, the third time he will be doing so this week. Woods has never outscored Thomas in the 13 times they have played together, including the third round here.
Woodland, who makes his Presidents Cup debut next week, dropped only one shot and finished with a flourish. He knocked home a 30-foot putt on the par-3 17th and then with the wind at his back, he hit wedge to three feet for a closing birdie. The closing holes seemed to be suiting him well, as he had three straight birdies on the last three in the second round.
“It was a nice finish, same as yesterday. I am so excited about where I’m at and I look forward to tomorrow,” said Woodland.
Stenson has finished in the top five in five of his six prior starts at Hero, including two runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2016.