PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Coming off an early bogey that put him eight shots behind, Tiger Woods was in a bunker to the left of the 13th fairway at Pebble Beach when he cut a 9-iron too much, sending it right of the green toward deep rough.
The ball caromed off a mound and onto the green and started rolling. And rolling. When it finally settled a foot below the hole, and the gallery’s cheers grew increasingly louder, Woods hung his head and smiled.
He went from possible bogey to unlikely birdie.
And with five birdies in a six-hole stretch, he went from the periphery of contention to the thick of it Saturday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, another step toward showing his game is on the way back.
“Looked like I was having a tough time making par, and I was making birdie, and off we go,” Woods said. “Sometimes, we need those types of momentum swings in a round, and from there, I made some putts.”
If nothing else, he made it interesting going into the final round of his PGA Tour debut.
Woods had a 5-under 67, his best Saturday score on the PGA Tour since the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and climbed within four shots of the lead. It’s the closest he has been to a 54-hole leader on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Masters.
Saturday at Pebble is all about the stars, as CBS Sports traditionally devotes its coverage to celebrities, from Ray Romano to Bill Murray dressed in camouflage while throwing a football to former San Francisco 49ers lineman Harris Barton.
Sunday will have some star power of its own.
Not only is Woods in the penultimate group — right in front of two players who have never won on the PGA Tour — he will be in the same group as longtime nemesis Phil Mickelson, who had a 70 at Pebble Beach despite playing the par 5s in 1 over.
Still in the mix is two-time Pebble Beach champion Dustin Johnson, former world No. 1 Vijay Singh and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, who was two shots off the lead at one point until a sloppy finish at Spyglass for a 72.
Woods couldn’t convert a share of the third-round lead with Robert Rock two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, but he is showing an upward trend. He has given himself a chance to win on the back nine of his last four stroke-play tournaments.
With a new swing, it’s starting to look like the old Tiger.