(Reuters) – Gary Woodland followed a spectacular eagle on the 15th with a birdie at the last minute to restore his three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy at the PGA Tour Seniors Champions Tournament in Hawaii on Saturday.

The American, who went to 202 minus 17 after 17 rounds, said he had to keep his emotions under control during his journey of less than 68 years after hearing of the death of his grandmother the night before.

"It was a tough night last night, but today was a good day and I played very well," said Woodland at the Golf Channel.

The 34-year-old managed the day's strike with a 15th inning when he managed a 24-meter run putt flag for the eagle and head straight, shortly after McIlroy traded with a birdie the 14th .

McIlroy, out of 205 under 205, was alone in second place, ahead of Australian Marc Leishman (68) in third place on a windy day on the island's scenic course in Maui.

Woodland, who has three wins in 231 appearances on the PGA Tour, said he had learned to turn promising positions into wins.

"I have already held this position before, but I am a completely different type of player and I will use all these experiences to my advantage and make the most of them," he said.

"I will play aggressively tomorrow and do a lot of birdies."

McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, said he would remain patient should he win his 15th career PGA Tour victory.

"I played in six final groups last year, most coming from behind, and I probably pushed a little too hard to try to catch up, try to play a perfect first six holes and that did not not really worked for me, "he said.

"I have to go to my business, hit the fairways, hit the greens again, I had no boguei today and I can go out and make it a goal tomorrow." he declared.

"Try not to make mistakes and take my birds when I can, that should be enough, but with Gary's playing, it may not be the case."

The scoring conditions for the first round of the PGA Tour season should be ideal on Sunday, as the winds that blow throughout the tournament are expected to ease.

(Report by Rory Carroll, edited by Peter Rutherford)