Tiger Woods kept himself in contention for a first major title since 2008 in thrilling fashion as Rory McIlroy’s hopes of ending his own drought disappeared in the 100th US PGA Championship.
Woods completed a 66 in the delayed second round on Saturday to lie six shots off the halfway lead, with playing partner McIlroy a shot further back after returning a bogey-free 67.
But while McIlroy then struggled to a third round 71 to drop out of contention, Woods covered the front nine in 31 to delight the massive crowds at Bellerive Country Club.
McIlroy bogeyed the opening hole after flying his approach over the green and although he responded immediately with a birdie on the next, further dropped shots on the fourth and seventh saw him tumble down the leaderboard.
Four years and a day after winning the last of his four major titles in the 2014 US PGA at Valhalla, McIlroy gave himself a glimmer of hope with birdies on the 10th and 11th, only for the 29-year-old to double bogey the next after a wayward drive.
In contrast, Woods had made the ideal start by holing from 15 feet for birdie on the first and five feet for another on the second, before almost chipping in on the fourth after finding trouble off the tee.
Woods, who changed his sweat-soaked shot after four holes, lost ground with a three-putt bogey on the fifth, but bounced back in style with birdies on the sixth and seventh.
The 42-year-old, who only returned to competitive action in November after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April last year, also holed from six feet on the eighth for his fifth birdie of the round, before a par on the ninth took him to the turn in 31.
For the third round in succession Woods looked set to bogey the difficult par-four 10th hole, which plays as a par five for the members, when he could only hack out from heavy rough to the right of the fairway.
But after pitching to 10 feet he holed the putt for par, celebrating with a fist pump before the ball had actually dropped into the cup.
A run of pars halted Woods’ momentum but there was no stopping double US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who went one better than Woods with a front nine of 30 thanks to birdies on the first, second, fifth, eighth and ninth.
And with halfway leader Gary Woodland making a triple bogey on the 10th after hitting from one bunker into another and then back again, Koepka found himself with a four-shot lead.
Jordan Spieth’s chances of claiming the win he needs to complete the career grand slam looked to have disappeared as he suffered a nightmare triple-bogey seven on the 12th.
Spieth had charged into contention with a front nine of 31 but after being fortunate to find his ball following a wild drive on the 12th, saw his attempted recovery ricochet off a tree and fly out of bounds.
The 25-year-old is without a win since victory in the Open at Royal Birkdale last year and 12 months on there would be no repeat at Carnoustie, where he went into the final round with a share of the lead but stumbled to a closing, birdie-free 76.