The 14-time major winner and tournament host had the crowds in raptures with a run of five birdies in six holes to close out the front nine and an air of expectation building as he got within two shots of the lead.
But as quickly as he had raced up the standings his momentum halted with missed birdie opportunities at both 10 and 11 and dropped shots at 13 and 18 to send him to Sunday’s final round tied for 10thand six behind leaders Abraham Ancer and Francesco Molinari.
Ancer matched the course record set yesterday by Kevin Streelman with a 62 while Molinari signed for a second consecutive 65 to reach 13-under.
Marc Leishman is alongside Woods at 7-under and sharing 10thplace after a lacklustre 1-under 69.
A bogey at the first wasn’t the start he was looking for and he trod water on the front nine with another dropped shot at the 7thto go with birdies at the second and 9th.
One birdie and eight pars on the journey to the clubhouse made little headway on the leaderboard though he is yet to produce his best golf for the week and is far from out of contention.
With hot weather expected again tomorrow Woods said the final make-up of the leaderboard will be in the hands of the course set-up crew and how they present the course TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms for the final round.
“I’m curious to see what they do to the golf course,” he said. “Are they going to let it keep drying out or protect it against this heat?
“Either way I’m going to have to shoot a low round to give myself a chance but I would hope that it would be dried out.
“That gives me a little bit better chance.”
Leishman, too, would no doubt prefer firm and fast conditions which would favour the better ball strikers and make low scores more difficult to come by.
As Woods noted, if the course is heavily watered that softness will lead to low scoring and favour those already in front.
Molinari is shaping as the man to beat Sunday after another ball striking clinic on day three.
Already a winner at the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth in May, the Italian elected to skip this week’s French Open on his home Tour to shore up his position on the FedEx Cup.
Despite being in the world’s top 20 Molinari was languishing at 12rd on the points table and in danger of not retaining his card later in the year.
That now seems unlikely, his decision to skip one of his favourite tournaments at Le Golf National paying dividends.
“It wasn’t easy to skip France for me,” he said after the round. “It’s one of my favourite tournaments and it’s a course where I’ve played well in the past.
“But it’s just….the way I’ve played this year obviously, winning a Wentworth and playing well in Italy but not playing so well over here in the first part of the season, I just need some FedEx points.”
Asked how he intended to attack the final round he said it would be more of the same.
“On this course you need to do everything well,” he said. “It’s key to hit fairways and greens especially but still I’m going to have to make a few putts also.
“The plan is going to be the same. Stay in the moment as much as possible and hit good shots and we’ll see if that will be enough.”
DUSTIN JOHNSON'S UNIQUE ACTION:
Want video tips delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to iseekgolf.com newsletters.