By Mark Lamport-Stokes
DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Tiger Woods stayed ominously in the hunt for his 73rd PGA Tour title, despite being betrayed by his putter on firming greens as the winds gusted in Saturday's third round of the Memorial tournament.
A stroke off the pace at the start of a grueling day, the former world number one ended it four adrift - the same deficit he faced after 54 holes in 2009 when he stormed to victory here by one shot with a seven-under-par 65.
On a sun-drenched Saturday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Woods briefly led by one shot after making a fast start but he totaled 32 putts and recorded four bogeys on the back nine on the way to a one-over 73.
"I probably shot the highest score I could have shot today considering the way I hit it," Woods told reporters after finishing alone in fourth at four-under 212, four behind fellow American Spencer Levin.
"But I'm only four back, and out here with the conditions, supposed to be like this tomorrow again, anything can happen.
"Four shots is definitely manageable around this golf course ... a lot of guys are still in this ballgame. It'll be an exciting day tomorrow."
A four-times winner at Muirfield Village, Woods mixed three birdies with four bogeys but was overall delighted with his play from tee to green.
"I feel really good the way I am hitting the golf ball," he said. "The things we've been working on the last few tournaments I'm finally starting to do. This is the way I know I'm capable of hitting the golf ball.
"The beauty of it is I've been missing the golf ball in the correct spots, and that's when I know I have control of my game. You're not going to hit every shot perfect, but at least I miss it on the correct sides."
On a challenging day when the average score was 74.32 and only three players dipped under 70, Woods struggled with the pace of the greens.
"I know they're faster than what they were yesterday, but they just didn't look that fast," the 14-times major champion said. "I ran a couple of putts by, also left a few short.
"And I was trying to stay steady in this wind, which is a task in itself, too. I did the best I could today."
Woods, who clinched his 72nd PGA Tour victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, felt Sunday's winning score would probably hover around eight under, Levin's total after the third round.
"It may not change from what it's at right now, or it may go higher, may go lower," Woods said. "That's the hard part about this golf course is there's so many demanding holes where anything can happen.
"For instance, obviously 12 (the par three) is just a pretty prime example of that. You're seeing the best players in the world make five and higher there this week."
Should Woods triumph on Sunday, he would draw level with Nicklaus in second place in the all-time standings with 73 PGA Tour career wins.
"I can't look at it that way," Woods said. "I have to look at it like I'm four back."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Dublin, Ohio; Editing by Julian Linden and Nick)