Rose, Snedeker share lead
Atlanta - England's Justin Rose fired a bogey-free two-under par 68 on Saturday to match American Brandt Snedeker for the lead after the third round of the $8 million Tour Championship.
Snedeker shot a bogey-free 64 at East Lake to join Rose on eight-under 202 after 54 holes with American Ryan Moore third on 204 and World No 1 Rory McIlroy and Americans Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson another stroke adrift.
"That was about as good as I could play," Snedeker said. "I missed a few putts. But all in all I played fantastic."
Rose felt proud of his round as well, having overcome a sore shoulder from lifting his eight-month-old daughter to cope well with winds and fast greens. He birdied the par-5 ninth and par-3 11th and otherwise notched 16 pars.
"To go bogey free on a course that showed its teeth was good," Rose said. "I feel good about my game. I've been patient and been able to get it around. It was a great day. I like tests like this where you have to grind for pars."
Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion, was among four US players sharing seventh on 206 in the final event of the US PGA season playoff series, which pays a $10 million bonus to the points leader after Sunday's final round.
"I'm only four back. I've got a shot at it," Woods said. "I'm playing for the W (win). If I win the golf tournament, everything's kind of taken care of."
Woods, McIlroy and Snedeker can each capture the playoff title and rich bonus prize by winning the tournament.
"I'm only three behind, right there," McIlroy said. "If I get off to a fast start and put a lot of pressure on the guys behind me, that will help and we will see what happens. I'm just glad to be in the mix.
"It will probably be one of the most exciting Sundays of the year."
Rose would need McIlroy to slide down to 17th in the 30-man field to have a hope of moving past the Northern Irishman into the playoff points lead, an event so unlikely that it has put the playoff crown out of his thoughts.
"I need a little help from my friends," Rose said. "I have the advantage of just playing the Tour Championship. For me it's just about one tournament. I wish I was in the position Brandt was in. I would trade him.
"Brandt is the one of the two of us who will be thinking about it."
Both Rose and Snedeker have been distracted by children, Rose by his daughter - "changing a few diapers in the morning probably takes your mind off it" - and Snedeker also by severe injuries to the son of his swing coach.
"The biggest thing I've learned is priorities from being a parent and realizing how unimportant in the grand scheme of things tomorrow really is," Snedeker said.
"My coach is going through a tough time right now. His son was in a bad car accident last week, so it has really kind of made all of us re-focus everything and realize what's really important. It was kind of a wake-up call to us all to make sure what's really important. This is just a golf tournament."
Snedeker birdied the fifth, seventh and par-5 ninth holes, opened the back nine with another birdie and added others at the par-5 15th and par-4 17th.
"I drove the ball great," Snedeker said. "I only missed two or three fairways. I put the ball on the green and made the key putts you need to make to have a good score around here."
Snedeker's hot putting touch made him a US captain's pick by Davis Love for next week's Ryder Cup matches against Europe, but it has also given him a solid chance at the playoff crown even though McIlroy won two playoff events.
"I've picked up a lot of confidence," Snedeker said. "I'm playing the best golf in my career and some of the best golf in the world. I'm realizing my best is good enough and enjoying playing out here."
And Snedeker would like to validate any doubters about whether or not he deserved the Ryder Cup pick.
"You definitely have a little bit of that," Snedeker said. "I want to show people Davis picked for more than because I was playing great golf."
McIlroy opened bogey-birdie and missed an eight-foot par putt at the seventh before making birdies at the par-5 ninth, the 10th and par-5 15th.
Woods birdied the fourth, took his lone bogey at the seventh and birdied the par-5 ninth and 15th holes as well as the 12th.
"Just claw your way back into it," Woods said. "I figured the guys aren't going to go out and run off and hide on this golf course. It's just playing too difficult."
Masters champion Watson was undone by a double bogey at the 16th while 36-hole leader Furyk found the water at the 17th for a triple bogey that dropped him from a share of the lead.
Scores on Saturday after the third round of the $8 million Tour Championship (par-70, USA unless noted):
202 - Brandt Snedeker 68-70-64, Justin Rose (ENG) 66-68-68
204 - Ryan Moore 69-70-65
205 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 69-68-68, Bubba Watson 69-66-70, Jim Furyk 69-64-72
206 - Tiger Woods 66-73-67, Robert Garrigus 68-69-69, Matt Kuchar 67-69-70, Bo Van Pelt 67-68-71
207 - Luke Donald (ENG) 71-69-67, Zach Johnson 68-69-70
209 - Webb Simpson 71-68-70, Dustin Johnson 69-67-73
210 - Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 70-71-69
211 - Adam Scott (AUS) 68-73-70, Scott Piercy 67-73-71, Jason Dufner 70-70-71, Rickie Fowler 71-68-72
212 - Hunter Mahan 68-73-71, Phil Mickelson 69-71-72
213 - Sergio Garcia (ESP) 69-73-71, Keegan Bradley 70-73-70, Steve Stricker 67-73-73, John Senden (AUS) 72-68-73, Carl Pettersen (SWE) 71-67-75
217 - John Huh 74-70-73
218 - Ernie Els (RSA) 72-75-71
219 - Nick Watney 75-74-70
221 - Lee Westwood (ENG) 72-73-76