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Tiger Woods battles tough conditions to keep lead

Tiger Woods, right, throws some grass in the

Tiger Woods, right, throws some grass in the air to check the wind as his caddie Joe LaCava stands by during the third round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: AP

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- There was morning rain and afternoon wind, and Tiger Woods, often unsettled in choosing clubs, Saturday took 10 shots more than he did with his record-tying score on Friday. But he but didn't lose the lead in the Northwestern Mutual Challenge.

Woods, a five-time winner of this $3.5 million limited field event which benefits his foundation, shot an even-par 72 for a three-round total of 11-under par 205. He remained two shots ahead of Zach Johnson at Sherwood Country Club.

"It was a tough day," said Woods. "The wind was all over the place. It was tough to pull clubs, and even though the greens were softer they still were pretty quick."

Johnson was even more adamant about the conditions than Woods. "It was brutal," he said of the weather, after his own 72.

Maybe it's good that the tournament, held here since 2000, will be moving to Florida starting next year.

"There were some really difficult pins out there," said Woods, "so it made it more imperative to miss the ball in the right spots because we weren't always going to hit the ball tight."

The conditions made for some loose play. Matt Kuchar birdied the first two holes, and then bogied six of the final 14 for a 76 and is fourth at 212, three shots behind third-place Bubba Watson, who had a 69.

Graeme McDowell, the defending champion, took a triple-bogey 6 on the eighth and shot 75.

Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth took quadruple-bogey 7s on the 15th, which is in a canyon and crosses hazard. Eight players hit a total of 11 balls in the water hazard there. Included was Rory McIlroy, who escaped with a double-bogey 5 and managed the day's low round, a 68.

"It was just hard," said Johnson. "I mean all around survival, commitment, trust, etc."

The weather is supposed to improve for today's final round, but whatever it turns out to be Woods' chances are excellent. He rarely gives away a third-round lead. What he does give away at this event, to the Tiger Woods Foundation, are his winnings. First prize is $1 million.

"I missed my share of putts today," said Woods, who 3-putted 13 and 15. "It's hard to get the speed right. I mean they're just difficult. I played with Zach, and I heard him asking [his caddy] is it uphill or downhill -- one of those courses where the hills are so steep but the greens are kind of opposite of that, so you feel kind of weird."

This will be the tournament's last year at Sherwood before it moves to Windermere in Orlando, Fla.

"Sherwood certainly has fit my eye," said Woods. "Five wins and four seconds. I would love to win here. It would mean a lot to us at the foundation."

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