After Saturday, only Aaron Baddeley - who shot an even 70 to stay at 2-over - is higher than Woods on the leaderboard. The two will be paired together Sunday.
"That's the perfect scenario," Baddeley said. "If there's one player I'd like to be paired with going into the final round, it's Tiger."
Woods had plenty of chances to shoot an even lower score than his 1-under 69. His eagle putt on four barely missed, as did his birdie putt on 13.
"I'd be miffed at myself if I hit bad putts, but I hit good ones, so that's the way it goes," he said.
Woods stood on the 18th tee having hit all 17 greens - reminiscent of Johnny Miller's final-round 63 in 1973, when he hit all 18 greens in regulation. But Woods' drive found the rough and he had to play his second shot short, and finished with bogey.
"I was pissed," he said of missing the last fairway.
Now the inexperienced leaders will enter Sunday trying to chase the world's No. 1 and Baddeley, who sits two ahead of Woods. Baddeley has the lowest putting average so far after three rounds. He also sank a 15-footer on the 18th for a birdie to space himself from the field more.
"We talked about, after we bogeyed 16, about one or two coming in," he said. "And that birdie was great to carry into tomorrow."
Bubba Watson entered the day one back of Cabrera but discovered how quickly fortunes can change. Entering the ninth hole even for the round, he missed the green left on the short side. His chip didn't make it to the green. Then he chipped it over the green before chipping on and two-putted for a triple-bogey seven.
He finished with a four-over 74.
"One bad shot, that's all it takes," Watson said of his approach shot. "But I hung in there."
Watson remains in contention, one of four players at 5-over after making only one bogey - a three-putt on 15 - the rest of the way.
Many players were surprised the USGA set up the course as playable as it was today. The scoring average for the day was more than two shots lower. Players remarked the course was playing surprisingly fair. There were four scores at even par and, like Friday, two under par: Woods' 69 and the day's low, Steve Stricker at 68.
"It was set up fair," Stricker said. "They had some tees up. The pins were good and fair and we talked to the officials and they put water on the green last night. And Vijay (Singh) commented, too, that it was set up well."
Woods, who was also in the final group at Augusta but failed to win, will shoot for his third U.S. Open and 13th major championship Sunday. He is the only one within three shots of Baddeley with a major championship.
"They're going to deal with emotions they've probably never dealt with before," Woods said. "I've been there before, and I know what it takes."
June 16, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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