TULSA, Okla. — Tiger Woods, still struggling in his comeback after severe leg injuries in a automobile crash last 12 months, has withdrawn from the P.G.A. Championship.
Woods, a four-time winner of the event, was limping and moving stiffly Saturday. He shot a nine-over par 79. After just making the cut on Friday, Woods slumped to 12-over par for the tournament, which is tied for last. Saturday’s end result was the very best rating Woods has had during 22 P.G.A. Championship appearances, which spans 81 rounds.
His halting gait and deteriorating game was so striking, Woods was asked afterward if he still planned to play in Sunday’s fourth round.
“Well, I’m sore,” he answered. “I do know that’s for a fact. We’ll do some work and see the way it goes.”
He didn’t address if he would contend in one other tournament.
Others struggled within the weather.
The last time the P.G.A. Championship was played at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club in 2007 temperatures reached 105 degrees. But that was during August in Oklahoma.
The P.G.A. Championship is now contested in May and Saturday’s third round of the event brought temperatures within the 50s, blustery winds and a field unnerved by the taxing conditions.
With shots made unpredictable by swirling gusts, a bevy of golfers jockeyed for the lead, including unheralded Mito Pereira of Chile, who charged to a commanding edge over his colleagues on the midpoint of his round. However the second-round leader, Will Zalatoris, who has 4 top 10 finishes in his last five major championships, caught Pereira several holes later.
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Then Cameron Young, a young rising star on the PGA Tour, and Bubba Watson, a 43-year-old two-time Masters champion, charged inside a stroke of the lead.
When play concluded Saturday evening, Pereira, who’s 27 and playing in only his second major golf championship, had confidently, even boldly, regained the highest spot on the leaderboard. After a third-round 69, he’ll enter Sunday’s final round with a three-stroke lead over Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England.
Pereira, after a mid-round stumble, vaulted past the opposite third-round contenders with consecutive birdies on the thirteenth and 14th holes. Then, with a packed 18th green grandstand cheering for him, he closed out his day by sinking a 27-foot birdie putt to maneuver to nine-under for the tournament.
While Pereira, who’s ranked a centesimal worldwide, just isn’t a household name in skilled golf, he has had three top 20 finishes on the PGA Tour this 12 months and won thrice on the Korn Ferry Tour, the tour’s top minor league circuit.
Zalatoris had a bumpy start Saturday, shooting a four-over 39 on the front nine but steadied himself by curing a few of his putting woes to shoot a rocky 73.
After bogeying his first two holes, Fitzpatrick was five-under for the remainder of his round to shoot 67.
Young, whose father is David Young, the longtime golf skilled at Sleepy Hole Country Club within the suburbs of Recent York, made a late charge when he eagled the 296-yard par 4 seventeenth hole by driving the green and making a brief putt. With 4 birdies in his round, Young shot 67 and was in fourth place at five-under overall.
After a sparkling front nine, Watson, who knocked his ball into seven bunkers during Saturday’s round, faltered and shot 73 and was tied for seventh.
Woods’s troubles on Saturday weren’t doubt exacerbated by the Tulsa weather. With a back that has been operated on five times, Woods has not enjoyed playing in cold, damp conditions for greater than a decade since it reduces the pliability and fluidity of his golf swing. He can be still adjusting to modifications to his game required as he continues his recovery from last 12 months’s tumbling automobile crash, which shattered several bones in his lower right leg.
Those limitations were on full display even before Woods teed off Saturday morning when his rebuilt right leg gave way as he descended an incline next to a practice bunker and nearly collapsed into the sand. Woods had to make use of a golf club and a fast step along with his left leg to stay upright.
Once his round began, it was obvious Woods’s reduced physical capabilities were going to dramatically affect his rating. His tee shot on the second hole was driven right into a creek and led to a bogey. He recovered with three pars but then bungled the 218-yard par 3 sixth hole. By then, Woods already looked in pain and he was especially having trouble hitting his irons the crucial distances. Several weren’t on line either.
On the sixth hole, his tee shot was short and left and landed in a water hazard. After a penalty shot drop, his third shot was within the rough just off the green and a subsequent chip that needed to go about 30 yards traveled only half that distance. Two putts later, Woods had a triple bogey.
He then bogeyed six of his next seven holes. Woods gave the impression to be alternatively embarrassed and exasperated, but marched on. At all times the grinder, he rallied for 4 pars and a birdie in his final five holes to avoid shooting 80.
“I didn’t hit the ball thoroughly and got off to not the beginning I needed to get off to,” Woods said later. “I believed I hit a very good tee shot down 2 and ended up within the water, and just never really got any form of momentum on my side.
“I couldn’t get off the bogey train there. As I said, I just didn’t — I didn’t do anything right. I didn’t hit many good shots. Consequently, I ended up with a fairly high rating.”