By Steve Keating
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Gary Woodland nearly buried his PGA Championship hopes in sand with a triple bogey horror show in the bunkers on Saturday but dug himself out of trouble to remain in contention for a first major title.
Having grabbing the lead at Bellerive Country Club with a record-equalling halfway score, Woodland’s hard work was nearly undone at the par four 10th where his approach found a greenside sand trap.
It all went terribly wrong from there as his bunker shot sailed over the green and into the sand trap on the opposite side.
Woodland tried to blast his way out again, only to watch his ball land back in the original bunker and roll to a stop in his footprint after the sand trap had not been raked.
His third attempt was hardly text-book but the ball did manage to hang onto the greenside fringe, allowing Woodland to finally card a seven and slump to three-over for the round.
His preceding hole, the par four ninth, had also been marred by a bogey, and the total four-stroke hit in two holes could have put him in a tailspin.
But Woodland was comforted by the memory of the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, where he made a similar stumble before recovering to notch his third career PGA Tour win.
“For me to make triple on 10, to give myself a little bit of confidence, I told myself I did the same thing in Phoenix,” said Woodland.
“And I really hit some great shots the next couple of holes, gave myself a lot of chances for birdie, and made a couple of them.
“It was nice to have that in my back pocket, been there in that same situation and came out on top.”
Woodland hit back with birdies at 12 and 14 at Bellerive to claw his way back up into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Brooks Koepka going into Sunday’s final round.
Woodland said the bunker nightmare had followed what he felt was a “great swing” on his approach.
“I thought it was perfect and it just came up short in the bunker,” he said.
“I was happy with the way I fought back, gave myself a chance for tomorrow, which was key.”
(Editing by Ian Ransom)