KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina — Rory McIlroy had quite a start to his third round at the PGA Championship.
Birdie, birdie, ball in tree.
Moments later, he was tied for the lead.
McIlroy saved par on the third hole after his tee shot became stuck in a tree, and aside from that adventure, he wasn’t having much trouble with Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course early on. Another birdie at No. 5 put him at 5 under Saturday, tied atop the leaderboard with Vijay Singh and a stroke ahead of Carl Pettersson.
Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter were another stroke back.
After two birdies to start, McIlroy’s tee shot on No. 3 somehow got lodged in the thick branch of a tree in the middle of the fairway. After searching for a bit, McIlroy realized where his ball was. He pulled it out, took a drop — and got up and down for par, sinking a 6-foot putt.
The windy second round Friday was the toughest at the PGA Championship since the tournament switched to stroke play, with 41 players failing to break 80. A battered group of golf’s top players found milder conditions Saturday, which was hot and clear. The course was set up at 7,451 yards, the shortest it’s been so far.
Woods entered the day with a share of the lead, but Singh improved to 5 under with a birdie on the par-4 first hole.
Woods, trying for his 15th major championship and first since 2008, missed the fairway with his first drive, and his ball nestled down in the rough to the left. He was able to reach the green with his next shot, though, and settled for par after missing a 10-foot birdie putt.
On the third hole, Woods missed a 4-foot birdie putt, and he made a mess of the fourth, twice hitting into the gallery en route to a bogey.
Elsewhere, players were taking advantage of the more favorable conditions.
Steve Stricker and Jimmy Walker shot 5-under 67s — two strokes better than anyone managed in the second round. Stricker moved to 2 under, a stroke ahead of Walker.
Bo Van Pelt was 4 under through 15 holes and was three back of the lead.
After a fairly tame first round, the wind arrived in earnest Friday, when there were more rounds in the 90s (two) than in the 60s. Singh managed a 69 in the second round, but he was an exception.
Woods had a share of the lead at the US Open this summer until rounds of 75-73 plunged him into a tie for 21st.
Jason Dufner, who was beaten in a playoff by compatriot Keegan Bradley for last year’s title, piled up six birdies and two bogeys in stiffening breezes at Kiawah Island to post a two-over total of 218.
He totaled only 25 putts on the challenging Ocean Course to finish six shots off the pace.
Among the notables to miss the cut were Lee Westwood (77), Rickie Fowler (80), Davis Love (79) and Sergio Garcia (75).
Sean O’Hair, Kevin Na and Scott Verplank withdrew with injuries.
Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey was disqualified from the championship after Friday’s second round for failing to “recreate his lie” after removing a ball from sand.
Hoey, who was one of only five players to shoot under-par in the second round with a two-under 70, was eight shots off the lead at the end of play.
The PGA said the player reported the issue to officials himself after an incident on the ninth hole of the Ocean Course. — Agencies