GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Tiger Woods drove on adjacent fairways twice on the back nine, hit a cup of beer in a spectator’s hand, got rattled by a bug and was relegated to shaping some shots around trees and under branches.

He still managed to shoot a 7-under 65 on Saturday in the third round of the Buick Open, giving him a 17-under 199 total and a one-stroke lead when Michael Letzig (68) double bogeyed the last hole.

“The whole idea of the game is put the ball in the hole, and I did that,” Woods said. “But as far as controlling my ball, I didn’t do that.”

Woods opened his first tournament since missing the cut at the British Open with a 71 after what he said was probably his worst putting day.

When he was eight shots behind first-round leader Steve Lowery, Woods said he couldn’t make up ground in one day at Warwick Hills.

It took him two.

Woods roared back into contention with a 9-under 63 in the second round and took the lead with his 65 Saturday.

“Eight back, at a U.S. Open, you can make that up in one round,” he said. “You can’t make it up around here.”

He moved into a tie for the lead with Letzig at 17 under with a 33-foot birdie putt at No. 17.

Woods pumped his fist, shouted “Yeah!” and the traditionally rowdy gallery roared so loud he couldn’t communicate with caddie Steve Williams.

“It was pretty exciting,” said Woods, making his ninth Buick Open appearance. “The people here have been absolutely incredible, so supportive of this event over the years. That’s one of the reasons why we love coming here.”

Letzig hit a poor shot out of a greenside bunker at No. 18, barely clearing it and leaving him with a tricky lie. He fell to 16 under while Woods was on the practice range.

“I don’t care,” Letzig said when asked if it would be tough to forget what happened on the last hole. “I’m one shot out of the lead.”

Based on history, that’s probably an insurmountable deficit behind Woods.

The superstar has a 35-1 record on the PGA Tour when he has the outright lead after 54 holes. The lone loss in this situation came when he was 20 in his third tournament as a pro to Ed Fiori in the 1996 Quad City Classic.

Woods and Letzig will be in the final group on Sunday just as they were at the Memorial in June, when Woods went on to win and Letzig’s 75 plummeted him to a tie for 14th.

“I won’t be so scared, I’ll know what to expect,” Letzig insisted. “I’m playing good, that’s the bottom line.”

If Woods wins Sunday, it would be his third Buick Open title and 69th on the PGA Tour.

Letzig, meanwhile, is hoping to win for the first time in his 50th PGA Tour event. He’s coming off his first top-10 finish this year. His best showing in two seasons was a tie for second at the Ginn sur Mer Classic.

Woods has won every other tournament in his last four starts.

He missed the cut at the British Open two weeks ago after winning the AT&T National, tying for sixth at the U.S. Open and winning the Memorial. His first victory this season was the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his third tournament following an eight-month absence recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

Woods was nearly flawless in the second round at the Buick Open, then made enough clutch shots to make up for many poor ones in the third.

Woods three-putted from 55 feet on the par-5 first. He was still muttering and shaking his head about the missed opportunity on the second fairway as slammed his 3-wood into his bag and starting eating a peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich.

At No. 5, he stepped out of his stance and kicked a bug that he later acknowledged led to him losing his concentration and sailing his tee shot to the right 237 yards away from the pin.

“I didn’t refocus on the shot,” Woods said. “I just got away with it.”

Woods cut a shot around one tree, over a towering one and reached the green to set up a two-putt from 53 feet for a birdie.

At No. 7, he pulled out his driver that stayed in his bag for much of the day and the tee shot caromed off a cup of beer that was in a fan’s hands and led to some friendly banter.

Woods hit his second shot under some tree branches and it finally landed about 300 yards away. A fantastic save out of sand set him up for another birdie.

While Woods was pleased with his results, he wasn’t proud of the way he had to scramble on one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour.

“You’re not supposed to be doing that,” he said. “This golf course is pretty short. You have to take advantage and I did, but unfortunately, I didn’t do it the correct way.”

Healthier Funk moves into US Senior Open lead

CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Fred Funk brought some fire to the U.S. Senior Open.

He
pumped his fist, raised his arms, kicked his leg and smiled throughout
the third round, showing no signs of the painful knee and shoulder
injuries that have hindered him much of this season. And he gave no
indication Saturday that he’s about to let the injuries derail another
quest for a major title.

Funk felt fantastic after shooting a
4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead over Greg Norman and Joey
Sindelar. Funk was at 13 under at Crooked Stick

“One thing I
can’t do is take a practice swing,” Funk said. “As long as I turn the
whole way, it takes the stress off the shoulder. So I don’t hit too
many punch shots any more. That shot is basically out of my game.”

Judging by Saturday’s numbers, he doesn’t need it.

Funk
birdied three holes on the front nine to get to 12 under, then birdied
No. 13 to take the lead. After a bogey on 14, he retook the lead on the
par-4 16th when he made a 20-foot birdie putt and Norman bogeyed after
missing the fairway and pushing an 18-foot par putt to the right.

Funk
has a chance to make amends for last week’s frustrating playoff loss at
the Senior British Open — if his body and play hold up.

“I’m just
trying to, really, to enjoy it, really let myself go,” he said. “I was
really disappointed last Sunday when I missed a couple of putts. I
don’t want to play defensive, so you’ve got to go out there and play
your game.”

That’s what most of the field did on a cool, overcast day that helped the scores stay low.

The
wild round saw four players — Funk, Norman, Sindelar and 50-year-old
amateur Tim Jackson — all take the lead and all surrender it after
first reaching 13 under.

At the end, though, it was the three low pros atop the leaderboard.

Norman
continued his resurgence with a steady round. He completed the front
nine at 2 under, picking up a birdie on the par-5 11th and an eagle on
the par-5 15th to go to 13 under. After the bogey, the two-time British
Open champ finished with back-to-back pars for a 68. He was 12 under
after 54 holes.

“I’m driving the ball long and straight, and
Freddy made the comment that I’m driving the ball like I used to do
it,” said Norman, who will be paired with Funk again Sunday. “It’s a
good feeling when you get up on any tee and hit it the way you feel you
can hit it.”

Sindelar wished he could say the same thing.

The
seven-time PGA Tour winner continually got himself into and out of
trouble, seemingly hitting every possible obstacle on the 7,316-yard
course. He went into the water at No. 6, repeatedly found the rough on
the back side, played out of the sand several times and even used a
tree limb to help one shot land on the green.

Matthew takes 3-shot lead at Women’s British Open

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) — Catriona Matthew of
Scotland opened up a three-shot lead at the Women’s British Open on
Saturday after a 1-under 71 in the third round.

Matthew, who is
playing just 10 weeks after giving birth to her second child, bogeyed
the third and fourth holes but recovered with three birdies to reach
4-under 212.

“I hit a good 8-iron 10 feet short at the fifth, and
made the putt (for birdie) so that settled me down,” said Matthew, who
turns 40 later this month.

Christina Kim of the United States was
second at 1 under after a 71, while defending champion Jiyai Shin of
South Korea shot a 68 to climb into a share of third place with Ai
Miyazato of Japan at even par.

Matthew took the lead after
birdies on the 10th from 25 feet and the 13th from 12 feet. Giulia
Sergas of Italy, who shared the overnight lead with Matthew, dropped to
11th after a 78.

Despite the lead, Matthew knows she needs another good round to secure her first major.

“There
are a lot of good players up there,” she said. “Christina had a good
day, Shin will be tough and (Paula) Creamer’s up there.”

Shin said she switched drivers after a 77 in the first round, but went back to her original on Saturday.

“Today
I was really good. Think the driver was good, everything was good,”
Shin said. “I’m following the leaders now. I’m not far away. This
course is very tough so I have a chance.”

Song-Hee Kim of South Korea (74) and Mika Miyazato of Japan (69) were tied for fifth at 1 over.

Paula Creamer recovered from two straight 74s to shoot a 70 and climb to a share of seventh place.

“It’s
kind of been up and down. My putter hasn’t really been cooperating the
way I would like,” Creamer said. “But today I made a lot of birdies and
hit a lot of good irons.”

Creamer played with Matthew in the
first two rounds, and watched the leader follow up an eagle on the 11th
with a hole-in-one on the 12th on Friday.

“Yesterday was fun to
watch, fun to be a part of,” Creamer said. “We had a little talk out on
the fairway on No. 11 yesterday and then all of a sudden she took off.
That’s pretty cool. Hopefully tomorrow I can chase her down, but she
has done exceptionally well after coming back from giving birth.”

Michelle Wie, who is trying to earn a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team, carded a 74 for a 7-over total of 223.

“I
just had some bad breaks out there today,” said Wie, who had a
difficult lie in a bunker at the 16th and ended up with a bogey 6. “I
thought it was lost. It was in the edge of the bunker, 6 feet under the
ground. I could have made myself a little coffin in there.”

Wie said she is still hoping to be picked as a wild card for the Solheim Cup team.

“I
think it would be a great honor for me to get picked, for me to make
the team, to be part of that history,” she said. “But you know, I’ll
just go out there to shoot a real low score tomorrow and see what
happens.”


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