LEMONT, Ill. – Ryan Moore figured the BMW Championship would be his last tournament for a while. He shot a 5-under 66 on Saturday, which could put his vacation on hold.
Moore eliminated the mistakes that held him back the previous day, making only one bogey in building a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Charlie Wi.
Moore was No. 58 in the FedEx Cup standings, and needed one of his best weeks just to crack the top 30 and advance to the Tour Championship in two weeks at East Lake. A victory not only would send him to the FedEx Cup finale, but give him a clear shot at the $10 million bonus.
Even with 18 holes to go, that’s a long way off.
That group does not include Tiger Woods. He finally broke par with a 3-under 68, but he needed much more. Woods was in a tie for 22nd at even-par 213, some seven shots behind where he needs to finish to advance to the FedEx Cup finale. Otherwise, it will be his last PGA Tour round of the year in America.
About his only drama Sunday is playing alongside Phil Mickelson, who shot a 70. It will be the first time they have played together this year, and the first time in the same group since Mickelson beat him in the HSBC Champions at Shanghai last November.
Moore is not bothered with that. He’s not concerned with the FedEx Cup, either.
“Just like any golf tournament, I came here to win,” Moore said. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m not here to try and qualify for the Tour Championship. I’m here to win the Western Open. All that other stuff takes care of itself. It you play good, you get in those things. I’m going to just focus on trying to stay patient, exactly how I have the last few days. Play hard and see what happens.”
Johnson will be in the final group for the second time during the FedEx Cup playoffs, having started Sunday at The Barclays three shots behind Martin Laird. That didn’t look likely when he struggled with his putter early in the round to fall five shots behind. But he ran off five birdies, nearly holing out a wedge on the 10th hole, and wound up with a 68.
“Any time you get on a run like that, especially on this course, it changes your momentum,” Johnson said.
Kuchar hasn’t been nearly as sharp as he was in the opening round when he shot 64, but he’s starting to feel better and is hopeful of hitting his stride Sunday. He wound up with a 70 and was just one shot behind. He was five back going into the last round at The Barclays, which he won in a playoff.
“If I can get going and have a day like today and make a few putts, I’ll find myself up there with a chance to win tomorrow,” he said.
Woods didn’t get much going until the end of his round, trading birdies on the par 5s with a few bogeys when he missed the green and wound up in a tough spot in the bunkers. That started to change with a pair of 15-foot birdie putts on the fourth and fifth holes, a solid par save from the edge of a bunker and a birdie on the par-5 ninth.
He at least was back to even par for the tournament, a year after he won at 19 under par. As for his chances of getting to Atlanta?
“I just play,” Woods said. “That’s all I can do. I’m trying to win this golf tournament, and now I’m eight back.”
If Moore is caught from behind, it most likely won’t be by Woods.
Dressed again in a tie hung loosely around his golf shirt, Moore opened with birdies of 8 feet on the first hole and 4 feet on the fourth. The key might have been No. 7, where he took a double bogey on Friday by trying to use putter from against the collar and blowing it some 8 feet by the hole.
“I ended up in the same type of position today – in the fringe, right around the edge of the rough,” Moore said. “And I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to belly-wedge it today.’ And I knocked it right in. I learned my lesson.”
The final round could be nail-biting away from the lead. The top 30 in the standings advance to the Tour Championship, and several players are right on the line. That includes Kevin Na, who was at 5-under 208, and Kevin Streelman, who had a 72 and was well back at 5-over 218. A good round could make a bad week feel better.