GAINESVILLE (Virginia) • Americans Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell, both looking for their first PGA Tour wins, shared a one-shot lead after Saturday's third round of the Quicken Loans National, while tournament host Tiger Woods fell from contention.
Merritt set an early target with a course record 10-under-par 61 to go 14-under, a figure matched at the end of the round by Chappell, who shot 67 for his 199 total at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.
"We found something late on Tuesday," Merritt said about the way he was setting the club before his shots. "I knew it was just off, and we finally found it."
Merritt had missed the last five cuts on tour. On Saturday, he carded five birdies in a row out of the gate, then added a four-birdie run from the 12th in his brilliant round of 11 birdies and a lone bogey.
"The ball striking has been fabulous the last three days. I didn't make any putts the first two days, but they went in today."
One shot back on the crowded leader board was Rickie Fowler after a 68. Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, who led by one at the halfway mark, shot a 71 and was tied for eighth at 11-under along with Briton Justin Rose (65), Carl Pettersson of Sweden (64) and American Bill Haas (64).
Woods, who began the day tied for fifth, three shots off the pace, plunged to nine behind after posting 74.
He shot 66 in Friday's second round for his lowest score in relation to par this year and found himself in the hunt, a rare occurrence in his dismal season. But the 14-time Major winner, coming back from back surgery and another swing change, was wild off the tee, missing his first six fairways and hitting only 10 of 18 greens.
"Unfortunately I warmed up that way. I was hitting the ball left on the range warming up," he said. "Couldn't quite get comfortable. Flipped it on one into the left rough off the tee.
"Made sure I didn't flip it on two. Hit a drive right. Basically it was a fight all day."
Woods took a bogey at that par-five hole, double-bogeyed the par-three 11th and bogeyed 13. He rallied with a birdie at 16, the last player in the field to post a Saturday birdie, and another at 17, hitting his seven iron within seven inches. After finding severe trouble far left off the tee at 18, Woods managed to escape with a bogey with a brilliant parachute lob to a tight pin.
"I fought hard today. I made some sweet up and downs, hit some really good shots," he said. "Thank God my short game is back." REUTERS