US PGA Championship: Tiger needs to bring end to back-nine blues

Of the other Aussies in the final men's major of the year, Marc Leishman will also be safe into the third round despite a 71 that left him at one under.

This isn't about the leader, Brooks Koepka, as much as it is about the men in position to topple him, even though Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open champ who approaches the final rounds of majors the way John Wayne approached the swinging doors of Wild West saloons.

If Woods can keep his driver under control and manage to shoot under par on the back nine, it's possible.

The Australian hung around by making big putts, just like he hoped, and was tied for the lead until Koepka's birdies.

His putting let him down on the par-four 15th as he three-putted from 12 metres.

US Open champion Koepka looked set to carve out a big advantage in his bid for a third major in two years, but came unstuck with successive bogeys on the back nine before recovering with a birdie on the 17th to close with a 66 of his own and 12-under 198. Of course, this has been where any thought of a Tiger resurgence has ended this summer.

He put himself in danger of carding a double on the second hole after pulling his tee shot just enough for his ball to nestle deep into a thick rough with a slight downhill lie. "I blew it by about four feet and then pulled the next one".

There were signs low scoring was ripe for the taking with Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello and England's Tyrrell Hatton both five-under for the day after 14 holes. "You're going to have to make some birdies". The gallery, a roaring swell as it follows him from hole to hole, certainly is eager to see it happen.

But the pleasant surprise of the day was Scott, who has battled to just just one top-10 finish in 14 months, a tie for ninth at the Byron Nelson Championship, leaving his playoff berth in peril at 119th in the FedEx Cup standings and only 125 to qualify.

"I kind of said last night I felt like there was a 65 in the way I was playing and just have to do it". With birdies on the second and third holes and a par on No. 4, he was at 10-under. This golf course is very gettable.

Now Koepka has to hold off a wide circle of PGA contenders that's heavy on instant name recognition and, in Woods, that includes arguably the greatest golfer ever trying to write one of the game's greatest tales.

It's championship Sunday at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.

Koepka, who in June became the first man to win back-to-back US Opens since Curtis Strange in 1988-89, could become only the fourth player to win the US Open and PGA Championship in the same year, following fellow Americans Gene Sarazen in 1922, Ben Hogan in 1948 and Jack Nicklaus in 1980.

  • Kyle Peterson