Tiger Woods birdied two of his last three holes to salvage an even-par 72 in the wind and keep his two-shot lead over Zach Johnson in the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club on Saturday.
The score looked routine. The third round was not.
Wind that pushed away some light rain at the start of the round created havoc in the canyons of the Santa Monica mountains, creating indecision from the fairways and making the fast greens even tougher.
Woods hit his tee shot into the water on No. 4 and had to scramble for bogey, briefly losing the lead to Johnson. But no one was immune from bogeys, and Woods finished strong to atone for his missteps. He drilled his second shot into 15 feet on the par-5 16th for a two-putt birdie, and then holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole after twice backing off his shot in the fairway.
Woods was at 11-under 205.
Johnson, who gave away the lead with two bad holes early on the back nine, also had a good finish. He got up-and-down for his birdie on the 16th and made a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 72 that put him in the final group with Woods on Sunday.
Johnson has twice been runner-up at the World Challenge, both times to Woods.
Woods is a five-time winner at Sherwood, and he's the best closer in golf. He has a 48-5 record with the outright lead going into final round, including four of his wins this year. The last time he lost a lead was at Sherwood three years ago, when Graeme McDowell came from four shots behind on the last day to win.
And while Woods was 10 shots worse than his course record-tying 62 in the second round on Friday, it wasn't all bad.
Blame that on the wind, and the par-3 15th hole was the best example of that. With a large creek in front of the green and the wind dancing all over the place, the par 3 played to an average score of 4.17. Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley each made a 7. Rory McIlroy's best round of the week, a 68, was spoiled by a double bogey on the 15th.
Woods managed to escape with a bogey, though he made up for it over the last couple of holes.
Bubba Watson three-putted the 18th, missing his par putt from about 4 feet, for a 69 and was four shots behind in third place. No one else was closer than six shots.
Johnson briefly took the lead with a birdie on No. 9, though Woods caught him with a birdie on the 10th. Johnson lost momentum with one bad shot, a fairway metal on the par-5 11th that went into a bed of leaves under a cluster of trees. He tried to punch under the trees and onto the green, but his shot hit a branch and led to bogey.
Johnson made a double bogey on the par-3 12th and just like that was three shots behind. He got back to within one shot on the next hole when Woods three-putted from 6 feet for bogey and Johnson made bogey.
But on the 15th, Johnson's tee shot never had a chance. It was like so many shots on the treacherous par 3. Not only did shots find the creek, some of them bounced into the creek, some 20 yards short of the target.
The forecast was for more wind Sunday, and groups will be starting slightly later from both tees.
Woods is trying to end the season with six wins for the ninth time in his career, and he is going for his sixth win at Sherwood. The tournament for 18 top players is moving next year to Isleworth, the course where he honed his professional game near Orlando, Florida.