KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — While Bo Van Pelt was flirting with a rare 59 in a third round that was close to impeccable until the last hole, Tiger Woods was getting increasingly frustrated with his mistakes at the CIMB Classic.
Van Pelt had four birdies in the first six holes, then five in a row from the eighth. He had two more birdies on the par-71 Mines Resort and Golf Club course on Saturday, and only needed another one to join an elite club to go under 60. Only five players have ever done it a PGA Tour sanctioned event.
But he hit his approach into the greenside bunker and needed three putts, finishing with a double bogey for a 9-under 62 and a share of the third-round lead with Robert Garrigus at 16 under.
“Obviously disappointed to finish with a double bogey,” Van Pelt said, “but I’m really proud of the 17 1/2 holes I played and hopefully that’ll carry over into tomorrow, and not the last half.”
Van Pelt was seven strokes behind overnight leader Garrigus coming into the third round but got his CIMB title defense back on track with a superb round.
“I don’t think I missed a fairway on the front nine,” he said. “My irons were pretty sharp, and the putter, I had been close all week, and today they were going in. They weren’t burning the edge.”
Garrigus, who had a two-stroke lead after the second round, opened with a pair of bogeys but finished with three birdies for 69 and a 54-hole total of 197. Fellow American Chris Kirk had a 63 to move to 15 under, one clear of Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge (66) and South Africa’s Jbe Kruger (69) at.
“I must have been tired or something,” Garrigus said of his first two holes. “Didn’t really have my golf swing that much today. I hit some bad shots, hit some bad putts, but sucked it up coming down there in the last.”
Woods’ round was the opposite.
He started with five birdies in the first eight holes but had three bogeys and a double-bogey on the back nine and finished at 69 to be in a group of five players tied at 11 under.
Thousands of people followed Woods and 2010 champion Ben Crane around the course, with the whir of camera shutters forcing Woods to stop his backswing on the fourth hole and noise or movement in the crowd causing him to pause at other times.
He’d promised to attack the course on the weekend, and he started with a birdie at the par-4 first hole. He got down to 14-under with four more birdies on the front nine to turn in 30, but then had a bogey at the 12th, a double bogey at the 14th where he had to drop a shot after hitting his tee shot in a water hazard beside the green and another bogey at 17 after missing a birdie putt. He got progressively more frustrated on the back nine and was clearly unimpressed with his round.
“I’m going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, something similar to what Bo did today,” he said. “The problem with being this far back is I’m going to need help. A great round tomorrow might not win it, that’s the only problem, but I’m going to put up a great round anyways.”
After turning in 30 on the front side, equaling his low for nine holes this season, Woods said he just made too many mistakes on the back nine.
“I was right there. I had plenty of easy holes to go, but I didn’t capitalize on that at all,” he said. “I made a couple of bad decisions, bad swings on top of that.
“On a golf course that’s playing this benign, you just can’t afford to do that. It can be had out there — I had it after eight holes, just didn’t keep it going.”
The 37-year-old Van Pelt didn’t seem to have that trouble until the very end, when he watched his chance for a 59 vanish in the bunker.
“From there, I pretty much had nothing,” he said, claiming that it wasn’t nerves that got to him. “Surprisingly, I wasn’t really nervous at all. I’ve never had that good a chance to shoot a 59 before and, to be honest, I’ll probably look back on it and think about the third hole.
“I had a 5-iron from the middle of the fairway and didn’t make birdie. I’ll look back at 15, I’m 30 yards from the green with an easy pitch and don’t make it. Those are the holes that cost me more than 18.”
Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa has the lowest round on a major tour, shooting a 12-under 58 to win the 2010 Crowns in the Japan Tour.
Only five players have shot 59 in official PGA Tour events — the latest being Australian Stuart Appleby at the 2010 Greenbrier Classic. Tommy Gainey missed a putt for a 59 at the McGladrey Classic and finished with a 60 in the last round to win the title last weekend, when Van Pelt was in Australia winning the Perth International.
Getting a 59 here wouldn’t have counted on Van Pelt’s official statistics anyway because the CIMB Classic, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, doesn’t become a full-fledged PGA Tour event until next year.
It wouldn’t have counted on the Asian Tour, either, because preferred lies were allowed for the second consecutive round, where players could pick up, clean and place their balls due to the soggy conditions caused by heavy overnight rain.
Van Pelt has four career victories, including one on the PGA Tour. He has led entering the final round four previous times on the PGA Tour, but has never converted those leads into a victory.
Johnson Wagner matched Van Pelt on the front nine when he went out in a career-best 29. He had seven birdies in the first 11 holes but then had bogeys at the 12th, 16th and 18th holes to finish with a 67.