By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LAKE FOREST, Illinois, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Jim Furyk took advantage of a stumbling start by playing partner Brandt Snedeker to move one shot clear midway through Saturday's third round at the BMW Championship with Tiger Woods in hot pursuit.
While Furyk covered the front nine in even 35 after mixing a bogey at the fourth with a birdie at the seventh, his overnight co-leader dropped shots at the second, fourth and fifth, then birdied the sixth and ninth to reach the turn in one over.
Furyk had stunningly soared into a tie for the lead with Snedeker after 36 holes by firing a magical 59 on Friday. He was at 11 under for the tournament on Saturday in his bid for a first PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Tour Championship.
Snedeker, who had opened with a 63 in the penultimate FedExCup playoff event of the season, was alone in second, a stroke in front of fellow Americans Steve Stricker (after 12 holes) and Woods (after 13) on a sunny day at Conway Farms.
Woods, who was livid after being docked two strokes for a rules violation on his opening hole in Friday's second round, rebounded with a stunning display of approach play on Saturday, reeling off six birdies in seven holes around the turn.
The American world number one, seeking his sixth PGA Tour victory of the season, hit his second shot to six inches at the 10th, his tee shot to six feet at the par-three 11th and his approach to inside two feet at the par-four 12th to put some heat on the leaders.
Despite ideal scoring conditions with hardly a breath of wind, Snedeker made his first bogey of the day at the par-three second after hitting his tee shot into a greenside bunker, splashing out 26 feet past the cup and two-putting.
That dropped him a stroke behind Furyk, who sank an 11-footer there to save par.
Though Furyk bogeyed the par-four fourth after overshooting the green with his approach, he remained one shot in front at 10 under after Snedeker also bogeyed the hole following a wayward drive.
Snedeker also bogeyed the fifth but immediately rebounded with a birdie at the par-three sixth, draining a 30-footer to get back to nine under.
Furyk rolled in a seven-foot birdie putt at the seventh, briefly forging two strokes in front on the chasing pack, before Snedeker rammed in a 13-footer at the ninth to cut the deficit.
Earlier, Matt Kuchar proved that conditions were near-perfect for scoring by firing a 10-under-par 61 to vault up the leaderboard into contention after opening rounds of 74 and 73.
He came close to emulating Furyk's 59 but his second shot at the par-five last pitched a few inches from the cup before bouncing 20 feet away to set up a two-putt birdie.
"I thought about it for a minute today," Kuchar told reporters about the prospect of becoming the seventh player to fire a 59 on the PGA Tour.
"I got off to a good start and then had a thought on the last hole, 'Gosh, if I hole this out from the fairway, it's a 59.' I got it at least to scare the hole a little bit." (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)