LOS ANGELES • Gary Woodland had to keep his emotions in check after he followed up a spectacular eagle on the 15th hole with a birdie at the last to restore his three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Saturday.
The American, who carded a five-under 68 and moved to 17-under 202 after three rounds, had learnt of the death of his grandmother just the night before.
"I want to send a little shout out to my family back home," he said.
"We lost my grandma last night. It was a tough night last night but today was a good day. I played great.
"I would have liked to see a couple of putts go in early. It was nice to see that long one go in on the par five there on the back - nice to finish with a birdie here on 18."
The 34-year-old provided the shot of the day on the par-five 15th when he converted a curving 64-foot putt off the flag stick for an eagle and the outright lead, moments after McIlroy (68) had grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on 14. Woodland said he did not realise that the Northern Irishman had pulled into a tie for the lead on the back nine.
"I was just trying to stay within myself," he said. "Trying to stay aggressive."
McIlroy, on 14-under 205, was alone in second, a shot ahead of Australian Marc Leishman (68) on a breezy day at the scenic Kapalua Plantation Course in Maui.
Woodland, who has won three times in 231 starts on the PGA Tour, said it was important to learn how to turn promising positions into victories.
"I've been in this position before but I'm a completely different kind of player now. I'll use all those experiences to my advantage and take what I can from them," he said, ahead of yesterday's final round.
"I'll go out and play aggressive tomorrow and make a lot of birdies."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE