With unbearable pain and three unforgettable shots, Woods turned in one of his most memorable performances in a major Saturday by holing two long eagle putts, chipping in for birdie and somehow taking a one-shot lead over Lee Westwood.
Right when some 50,000 fans at Torrey Pines thought they had seen it all, Woods knocked in a 30-foot eagle on the 18th for a 1-under 70 and his first 54-hole lead in the U.S. Open since he won at Bethpage Black in 2002.
That he made it to the finish line was nearly as impressive as his magical array of shots. His tender left knee first buckled on the 15th hole, and Woods used his club as a cane to get down the fairway, limping along while trying to stay in the hunt.
He played the final six holes in 4 under -- and that included a bogey -- and will play in the final group for the sixth time in the past eight majors.This time he has the lead, and he has never lost a major from the front.
Woods opened the third round with a drive into the left rough and a double-bogey Saturday -- the second time he's done that in three rounds at Torrey Pines.
Add a bogey at No. 10 on Friday, when he opened his round on the back nine, and Woods was 5 over on his opening holes over three days.
Woods' performance on No. 1 was reminiscent of what he did to open the tournament Thursday, pulling his drive hard into the left rough, hacking out short of the green and then needing four shots to get down from there.
On No. 4, Woods made a bogey after another errant drive to move back over par.
He made a birdie on No. 7 and had a chance to get back under par on the par-5 ninth, but needed three putts to get down from 35 feet after hitting his approach just in front of the green.
It wasn't quite the start that might have been expected for the world's best player, who a day earlier made it look as if he might romp to his 14th major title this weekend at Torrey Pines.
He made five birdies over his closing nine holes Friday to card a 30.
Early contender Stuart Appleby shot 6-over 41 on the front Saturday, including a four-putt double bogey and a three-putt from about 5 feet on No. 9. He shot 76 for the day and fell into a tie for 19th at 8 over entering the final round.
Rocco Mediate and Westwood, meanwhile, are the only other players under par at Torrey Pines, which was becoming more difficult with the wind blowing off the Pacific and the low clouds hovering over the 7,600-plus-yard layout, the longest in major championship history. Mediate shot 72 on Saturday and is two strokes back of Woods.
But there were good scores to be had Saturday in the early rounds, especially for anyone named Brandt. Brandt Snedeker, who played in the final group in the Masters Tournament earlier this year, shot 68. Brandt Jobe shot 69. Both finished at 4-over 217, but neither was close to the leaderboard. Former Masters Tournament champion Mike Weir (216) and Hunter Mahan (215) also shot 69.
Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, played himself out of the tournament with a quadruple-bogey on the par-5 13th.