Before the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, Branden Grace had not played with Tiger Woods before. After the third round, he found himself two strokes clear of the 14-time major winner.
And he had three consecutive rounds with Woods under his belt, with his third round equal to the best of the day in Akron at four-under, leaving him nine shots off the 11-under of the pace-setting Jim Furyk and a lot more confident.
ÂIt has been unreal,Â enthused Grace after the third round. ÂIÂve learned a hell of a lot from playing with him. The way he plays shots, the way he handles himself and things like that has been great.Â
Grace was drawn with Woods for the opening two rounds, so the third round was a bit of a bonus. ÂWhen we signed the scorecard, we thought, itÂs going to happen,Â Grace said.
He became more comfortable throughout his time with Woods Â his opening round was a mix of birdies and bogeys for his two-over, while his second was made up entirely of pars.
But he went on the offensive in the third, making five birdies on the front nine to turn in 30. ÂI got it going there on the front nine, just every time I had it in the rough I just pictured the right shot, and every time it came off,Â he said.
ÂIt was nice to roll in a couple of putts, as well, and to go five-under through the first nine was the start I had hoped for, but obviously I ran into a couple of errors on the back nine. But thatÂs going to happen around this golf course,Â he added.
Up ahead of him, Louis Oosthuizen continued his fine run at Firestone Country Club, following his superb second-round 65 with a two-under 68 to move to 10-under, trailing Furyk by just a single shot as the American who has led from the start kept himself just ahead with a level-par third round.
Oosthuizen made bogey on the eighth, but immediately regained that stroke with a birdie on nine, and two more birdies on his way in saw him start to put the pressure on Furyk.
ÂItÂs a great position to be in,Â said Oosthuizen. ÂI donÂt know him that well, but heÂs not going to go away on the leaderboard. ItÂs going to be tough.Â
Oosthuizen rode the wind on his way into contention, including a monster 431-yard drive on the 16th: ÂThe drive just went a lot farther than I thought it would,Â he said laconically.
And the wind is what Oosthuizen would like for the final round: ÂI know the weather is coming in a bit. I think itÂs going to be a tough day,Â he said. ÂYouÂve got to catch him. I just want to try and get my ball in the fairway and not struggle like I did on the front nine today and just give myself as many birdie opportunities as I can.Â
Oosthuizen was three clear of PGA champion Keegan Bradley, with Rory McIlroy in a share of fourth another stroke back.
Other South Africans:
T34 Retief Goosen +2
T44 Ernie Els +4
T56 Charl Schwartzel +6
74 Oliver Bekker +15