British Open 2018: Tiger Woods thrills with score of 66 to get into contention at Carnoustie
Big Cat crushed early in Round 3 on Saturday
Tiger Woods shot a 5-under 66 on Saturday at the 147th Open Championship to get to 5 under overall for the week and in the house at 208 strokes going into Sunday. Woods co-led the event at one point during Round 3 as he touched 6 under for a few holes and shared the lead with Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood and a handful of others. It was remarkable given that he has no top 10s at majors and just three made cuts since the end of 2013.
Woods made two birdies early on a course that was playing much easier than it did over the first 36 holes. Then his round (and the day) got a jolt in the middle. Woods birdied Nos. 9, 10 and 11 consecutively with a variety of shots and putts, and suddenly his bid for a 15th major had steam. The shot on No. 10 was particularly engrossing.
Another easy two-putt birdie on the par-5 14th and Woods was 6 under on the day and for the tournament, and the idea of Woods, against all odds, hoisting the Claret Jug for a fourth time seemed within reason. He bogeyed the tough 16th by hanging a putt out to the right but tidied up the final two holes for the 66. The last one was fabulous. A pull-hooked iron nearly into the burn off the tee led to a thick wedge out before Tiger hit his approach from 100 yards to a three feet. Par save, on to Sunday.
"Today it was dry," Woods told Golf Channel after his round. "I was watching some of the telecast early, some of the guys blowing it way off line and just hitting wedges onto greens. I was seeing what guys were shooting out there today and figured I'd probably have to go get it."
"I had to post a number and try and keep myself within reach," he added.
He won't hold the lead or co-lead going into the final round, but he'll have a late Sunday tee time at a major championship, which is not a sentence I envisioned typing this time last year.
In some ways, this all makes sense. Woods has been one of the handful of best ball-strikers on the PGA Tour so far this season, and he hasn't had to hit many drivers (one of his weaknesses) on Carnoustie's speedways. Remarkably, Woods led the field in driving accuracy for the week at one point during his round (mostly because he's picked his spots and hit countless stingers).
When he did hit the big stick on Saturday -- specifically preceding birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 -- he made it count. He knew he had to because of how low golfers were going.
And the short game was far more accurate than it's been throughout the season. I know the course was not as tough as the first few days, but to play Carnoustie in any conditions with just one bogey is impressive.
I have to say I didn't see this coming. Woods got what he needed on Saturday with the easier course at Carnoustie, but a 66 on the weekend at a major with Spieth involved is a 66 on the weekend at a major with Spieth involved. Woods' game this year has seemed really strong in spurts, but he's lacked a sharpness throughout the year that results in wins (much less major championship wins).
Every time Woods has hit the ball well at a tournament this year, which has been most of the tournaments he's played, he's flailed on the greens. He hasn't been crisp enough to win. This week, depending on how the leaderboard shakes out, he might be.
And wouldn't it be something if everything Woods has done so far this year, all the work he's put in, came together in Scotland at an Open? He's brought a buzz to an already-great tournament that takes it to another level, and what he did on Saturday, regardless of whether he goes on to win the tournament, was spectacular.
"I have a shot," Woods told Golf Channel. "With the forecast supposed to be up tomorrow, hopefully it pans out. If it doesn't pan out then guys are going to go out there and shoot 5-7 under par tomorrow, and we're going to have to be going after some birdies tomorrow."
I don't know what being "back" looks like for Tiger. I don't know that anyone does, maybe not even him. What I do know is that Tiger, after four back surgeries and years of questions, finally delivered an answer in the space that matters the most, both to us and him. Tiger shot a mid-60s round on a weekend at a major to get into the hunt. And isn't that all we wanted all along?
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