Tiger Woods lets go of his driver on the follow through after teeing off at… (Bret Hartman / Associated…)
Reaching the par-five 11th hole in only two shots, Tiger Woods came to the green primed for an eagle or birdie that would cut into Graeme McDowell's lead in the World Challenge.
But after his first putt stopped well short of the cup, a frustrated Woods smacked the next putt four feet past the hole, like a weekend duffer might, and grudgingly settled for par.
Woods regrouped to birdie three of the next six holes at Sherwood Country Club and finished with a three-under-par 69, but he trails McDowell by five shots entering Sunday's final round.
"I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow and see what happens," said Woods, a five-time winner of the 18-player invitational, which benefits his charitable foundation. "I missed a few opportunities out there."
McDowell, a former U.S. Open winner who beat Woods in a playoff to win the World Challenge in 2010, and Keegan Bradley won't make it easy for Woods again this year.
McDowell shot a bogey-free, four-under 68 to lead the event at 13 under through 54 holes. And Bradley —despite being heckled by some spectators over his belly putter — fired a 67 to trail McDowell by two.
Bo Van Pelt, with a 70, was tied with Woods in third place at eight under par, and 2009 World Challenge winner Jim Furyk was fourth, six strokes behind McDowell, after shooting 71.
A native of Northern Ireland, McDowell birdied two of the first four holes as a steady drizzle soaked the 7,027-yard course.
As the showers abated and the sun briefly peeked through, McDowell hit his approach on the par-four ninth hole to within eight feet of the cup and sank another birdie putt. He also birdied No. 11, then shot par the rest of the way.
"It would have been nice to pick a few more up on the way in . . . but two shots ahead going into Sunday, I'll take that any week, anywhere," McDowell said.
Bradley, who has been in the news all week because of golf's belly putter controversy, would not let McDowell out of his sights.
The winner of the 2011 PGA Championship, Bradley uses the belly putter method that golf officials announced would be banned starting in 2016. The technique involves using a long putter whose grip rests against the golfer's stomach, providing added stability.
"I heard some guy here call me a cheater on the last hole, which was no fun," Bradley said after his round. "But I look forward to hopefully making everything tomorrow with that belly putter and hopefully it'll get a little louder."
Bradley, who's finishing his second full season on the PGA Tour, said it was the first time he'd been heckled on the course.
"I've never heard anything negative," he said. "I've got to try to look at it as motivation to help me try to win this tournament."