McIlroy, Scott, Kuchar share lead at Riviera; Woods falters

DOUG FERGUSON (AP Golf Writer)
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Rory McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world for the first time in more than four years and is playing like he wants to stay there for a while.

McIlroy had a 3-under 68 on Saturday at Riviera and shared the 54-hole lead with Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott going into the final round at the Genesis Invitational.

Riviera is a thorough test, and the greens are difficult enough that no one could run away with it. Tiger Woods managed to run the other direction with a 76 that left him 15 shots behind.

Kuchar had a two-shot lead at the start of the gorgeous day and kept there with three birdies and no bogeys through 12 holes. But he started to miss short putts, made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and had to rally with a birdie on the 17th to regain a share of the lead with a 70.

Scott holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 67 that gives him a great chance to start his new year off with a win. Scott last played about two months ago when he won the Australian PGA Championship. He has a trophy from Riviera in 2005, even if the PGA Tour doesn't count it as an official win because it was shortened to 36 holes by rain.

They were at at 10-under-par 203, and the final round figured to be wide open.

Sixteen players were separated by four shots.

Harold Varner III birdied his last two holes for a 69 and was one shot behind, along with Russell Henley (68). Dustin Johnson, who won at Riviera three years ago, had only two pars over his final 12 holes. That stretch also featured five birdies and an eagle for a 67. He was two shots behind, along with Joel Dahmen (66).

Still in the mix was Hideki Matsuyama, who bogeyed his last hole Friday and was the last player to make the cut. Matsuyama played in the final group off the back nine, away from all the attention, and posted a 64. He was four shots behind and very much in the picture.

Woods will have to wait another year to win at Riviera, another week to seek his record 83rd victory on the PGA Tour. In a spot where he couldn't afford to drop shots, he made more mistakes than he had all week, especially on the greens.

He four-putted from 18 feet on No. 13, his second four-putt in as many tournaments this year and the first times since 1998 that Woods had multiple tournaments with a four-putt. He three-putted the 17th for par. He finished with a three-putt bogey from about 12 feet on the 18th.

It added up to a 76, leaving him at the bottom of the pack. It was his highest score since he opened with an 81 at Royal Portrush in the British Open last summer, and the first time since the PGA Championship in May that Woods had consecutive rounds over par.

''I hit the ball quite a few times, especially on the greens, and it was a long day,'' Woods said. ''I didn't have a feel for it, I didn't see my lines, I couldn't feel my pace and I was just off. ... Obviously, there wasn't a whole lot I did right today, and figure it out tomorrow.''

Woods said he wasn't ready for the Mexico Championship next week and was not sure when he would play next. The idea is to peak for the Masters, still about two months away.

Woods wasn't alone in his struggles. Sung Kang missed a 2-foot putt during a stretch of three straight bogeys. Ryan Palmer took six shots to get out of a greenside bunker on No. 14 and made 9.

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