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Rory McIlroy surges, Tiger Woods falls back in suspended third round of PGA Championship

Tiger Woods chips to the seventh green during

Tiger Woods chips to the seventh green during the third round of the PGA Championship. (Aug. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Tiger Woods always has been a proverbial creature of habit. His success was built on regimen and repetition. He apparently still is bound by routine, but it is one he would like to break. Weekends at majors just are not his cup of tea.

Woods has not broken par on Saturday or Sunday in a major this year, and he put himself firmly on track to keep that trend going Saturday. Before a storm suspended play in the PGA Championship, he had gone from holding a share of the lead to just holding on. He made three bogeys in his seven holes and fell to 1 under par, five shots behind co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh.

The weather might yet prove to be a break for Woods, who will be among those finishing their third round Sunday morning before starting the final round Sunday afternoon. He looked somewhere between mystified and angry after missing a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 3 and a somewhat longer, but makable, putt for par on No. 4.

"I got off to a rough start today and I couldn't get anything going," Woods said in a statement after play was halted. "I'll come back tomorrow and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play."

He might just as well have repeated what he said after the third round of the U.S. Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club in June, when he began the day in the final group (as he did Saturday) and wound up shooting 75: "I missed [fairways] by just a few yards. That was enough."

On Saturday, Woods kept hitting shots to the left and twice felt compelled to give autographed gloves to spectators whom his ball struck.

Woods was in two bunkers on the par-5 seventh and missed a 20-foot par putt. Just before the horn blew, he missed the green on the par-3 eighth and chipped up to 7 feet.

In other words, he did not play as well as his fellow competitor in the final group, Singh, who birdied the first and seventh holes. Woods certainly was not as resourceful as McIlroy, who finished the front nine in 4 under and created his own chapter of a story that might be called the Dead Tree Scrolls.

The 23-year-old former U.S. Open champion hit a tee shot on the third hole that he knew was headed toward a withered tree, surrounded by high grass. McIlroy never did see it land, but he knew where to look for it.

"I was like, well, if it hit the tree, I'm sure it's just somewhere around here in these long grass things or in the wood chips or whatever," he said.

While he, his caddie and others were stomping around looking for it, the TV shot from the blimp showed his ball lodged in a limb of the leafless tree.

"One of the guys that was working for the TV came over and said, 'You know, it's actually stuck in the tree,' " he said. "I'm like, how can it be stuck in this thing? But it had wedged itself between the tree bark and the actual tree."

McIlroy reached up as if he were picking a ripened peach, plucked it out, took a one-stroke penalty and drop, pitched up and made the par putt. "I thought it was very important to do that, especially after birdieing the first two holes," he said.

There is plenty of company on the leader board. Resilient Adam Scott is a shot back at 5 under, first-round leader Carl Pettersson is at 4 under, and six other golfers are within four strokes of McIlroy and Singh.

As Woods had said at the Olympic Club, "There are a lot of guys who are going to have a chance to win."

Sunday will tell if Woods is one of them.

For his part, McIlroy said, "I'm happy to play 27 tomorrow and if it was 36, I'd be happy as well. You've just got to take what you're given, get on with it and make the best of it."

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