- Following Tiger Woods through his third round of the British Open at Carnoustie.
For about a 20-minute period on Saturday, Tiger Woods was tied for the lead in a major championship.
Woods made a late bogey but still managed a five-under 66 on Saturday to vault into contention at the British Open, and it's his lowest round at a major since the 2011 Masters. He was two shots back of the lead when he finished his third round on a gettable Carnoustie that's ripe for scoring.
"I played well today, I really, really did," Woods told reporters after the round. "I hit a lot of good shots, and I didn't feel like I really made a bad swing until 18. I really felt like I had control of the golf ball."
Woods' round started with three-straight pars before he birdied the 4th hole for the third straight day. He added another at the par-5 6th, but the round really kicked into gear toward the end of his front nine.
Woods dropped a 40-footer for birdie on 9—a putt that would have run well by the hole had it not hit square in the back of the cup—to turn in three-under 33, then stuck his 9-iron approach on 10 to within two feet. Then Woods, who was more aggressive and hit drivers more often than he did in the first two rounds, pounded a driver near the par-4 11th green. Two putts from there meant another birdie, and at that point he was just one back of the lead.
His final birdie of the day came at the par-5 14th after his eagle putt slid just by, and he had caught the leaders at six under. Next came the difficult par-3 16th, and Tiger's tee shot finished just right of the green after landing a bit short and taking a slope. He went with the putter from there but left his lag about six feet short, and his par effort went begging on the right.
He would bounce back with pars on 17 and 18, the latter of which he made with the help of a remarkably lucky break.
Woods pulled a driving iron well left and looked nervously as the ball headed toward the burn that runs up the left side of the fairway before jutting into front of the green. The ball landed within a yard of the hazard and somehow, despite right-to-left overspin, bounced right into safety. Instead of trying to muscle an iron over the burn, a risky decision that led to Kevin Kisner's double-bogey yesterday, Woods opted to lay up to a comfortable wedge yardage. He hit a spinner from there that stopped about three feet from the hole, then holed his par effort to get in with 66.
"I had to stay within reach," he said after the round. "And five [under par] is definitely within reach."
Below is a hole-by-hole recap of his round.
Hole 18, Par 4 - Par, five-under 66
Tiger got a really lucky break here, as his tee shot was pulled left and headed for the burn. It bounced less than a yard from the burn then somehow kicked right into the rough, into a position where he couldn't advance it to the green but dry nonetheless. He hit a wedge out of there instead of challenging the green, then got up-and-down for par. A five-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard. He'll likely be at least three back by the time tomorrow begins, but he's played his way into the tournament.
Should be a fantastic Sunday.
Hole 17, Par 4 - Par, -5 for day, -5 for tournament
Tiger hit another tight-draw with a long iron right down the middle, then another beautiful high approach to about 20 feet. He played a little too much right-to-left on his birdie effort put tapped it in for par. Now heads to the 18th, where disaster lurks everywhere.
Hole 16, Par 3 - Bogey, -5 for day, -5 for tournament
Buzzkill bogey. His tee shot was on line but a little short and took a ridge, finishing off the green in a bit of a sunken spot off the right. He went with putter from there and left it about six feet short, and his par putt went by on the right. Not a particularly good effort. He's now two back of Kevin Kisner, who is seven under, and has two absolutely brutal holes to play.
Hole 15, Par 4 - Par, -6 for day, -6 for tournament
Very close to taking the lead by himself there. He went iron off the tee, and it was a beautiful tight draw right down the center. He then hit a sky-high iron that was right at the flag but about 25 feet short. His birdie effort ran out of steam, so it's a tap-in par. Tiger now heads to the brutal closing stretch—if you'd offer him three pars, I'm sure he'd take it and run.
Hole 14, Par 5 - Birdie, -6 for day, -6 for tournament
Tiger Woods is tied for the lead.
A textbook How-to-Play-a-Par-5 birdie. Driver down the right side, long iron to the middle of the green and an easy two-putt. He is now six under for the round and, incredibly, tied for the lead in a major championship. At 42. After four back surgeries. It's crowded up there—Tiger's tied with Spieth, Fleetwood, Johnson, Kisner and Chappel—and he's at a disadvantage as he's running out of holes and everyone's making birdies. But don't take this for granted: Tiger's tied for the lead.
Hole 13, Par 3 - Par, -5 for day, -5 for tournament
So, so close to dropping another birdie and tying the lead. He hit a safe iron into the center of the green, about 30 feet right of a left pin. His birdie effort was tracking the hole way and looked perfect about four feet out before sliding by on the left side. A tap-in par and a huge, huge hole coming up with the par 5.
Hole 12, Par 4 - Par, -5 for day, -5 for tournament
On this 500-yard par 4, Tiger broke from his aggressive driver strategy and went with a long iron. He left himself over 250 yards for his second shot and hit a beautiful high-cut long iron that took a firm bounce and bounded through the green. He went with putter from the fringe just over the putting surface and lagged it to tap-in range.
Hole 11, Par 4 - Birdie, -5 for day, -5 for tournament
Tiger is just one back of the lead on the weekend at a major championship.
Aggressive again off the tee with a driver on 11, and this one rolled all the way out toward the green. From there he went with putter from about 100 feet, and hit a lag to four feet below the hole. That birdie putt was right in the heart.
There is nothing in golf quite like when Tiger is contending on the weekend in a major. It's been so long since we've seen this. Must-see TV.
Hole 10, Par 4 - Birdie, -4 for day, -4 for tournament
We could have something special on our hands. Again, Tiger went with driver—you know he's feeling comfortable when he's hitting this many drivers—and split the fairway. Another 9-iron, this time a flighted one right at the flag. It finished about a foot from the hole and that's a kick-in birdie. He's now just two back of Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, who certainly have heard these Tiger roars by now.
On a non-Tiger note, Jordan Spieth just drove the 1st green (!) and made the eagle putt. He's the first player to drive that green today and first to make eagle. He is now five-under and just one back of the lead.
What a day we have on our hands.
Hole 9, Par 4 - Birdie, -3 for day, -3 for tournament
Here we go!
Tiger went aggressive again off the tee—we've seen him take more driver and 3-woods than in the first two rounds early—but pulled his drive into the fescue left of the fairway. He did a good job to keep the club from turning over in the rough, and his approach was right on line but finished about 40-50 feet short of the flag. Then...he drained it. The putt was motoring and would have ben about 10 feet past the hole had it missed, but it didn't miss. That's a huge momentum boost, and that's a three-under 33 on the front nine.
He's just three back.
Hole 8, Par 3 - Par, -2 for day, -2 for tournament
Tiger got aggressive with his tee shot, trying to turn a draw to access the front-right hole location. But his tee shot landed a little short and a little left of the flag, finishing just short of the green. He went with the putter from there, and the birdie effort was a couple rolls short from dropping right in the center. Yet another tap-in par.
Hole 7, Par 4 - Birdie, -2 for day, -2 for tournament
Another good swing with an iron off the tee set Tiger up to attack another flag. It was yet another 9-iron, and this one finished about 15 feet right of the flag. His birdie effort wasn't a particularly good one, as he either played for far too much left-to-right break or hit a pull, because it went by almost a foot too far left. Another tap-in par, and Tiger's had a relatively stress-free round since that long par save on 1. Par 3 up next.
Hole 6, Par 5 - Birdie, -2 for day, -2 for tournament
A beautifully played hole results in Tiger's second birdie of the day, and all the sudden he's just four back.
Tiger went driver off the tee and flew it past a bunker that snagged Phil Mickelson's ball about 10 minutes before. He had 250 into the green and hit a high cut that found the front of the putting surface but left a bending 100-ish footer for eagle. His lag effort was pretty decent and he converted a seven-footer for birdie right in the heart. He's now two under for the day and two under for the tournament. Great start for Tiger, and it could have been even better had he converted on 2. His ball striking looks solid today.
Hole 5, Par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -1 for tournament
Tiger went conservative with a 4-iron and left himself 191 yards. He tried to hit a high draw but left it out a bit right, finishing about 40 feet from the hole. A bit of a misread on the birdie putt, but it's a two-putt par.
This has been talked about at length, but it's difficult to go flag hunting from 191 yards. Carnoustie forces you to make choices about how aggressive you want to be off the tee, and there are certainly steep penalties if you get aggressive and miss just a little. But if you're trying to make a move up the leaderboard on Moving Day, perhaps a more aggressive strategy off the tee would do well.
Hole 4, Par 4 - Birdie, -1 for day, -1 for tournament
Finally in the red. Tiger went with a 3-wood off the tee and found the right side of the fairway. His sand wedge approach was controlled nicely, leaving about seven feet straight up the hill for birdie. The putt was dead-center.
That was an absolutely must make, so it's huge that he converted. Tiger has now birdied this hole each of the first three days. Let's see if he can pick up another at 5—Phil Mickelson just birdied it—before stepping to the par-5 6th.
Hole 3, par 4 - Par, E for day, E for tournament
Tiger went with 7-iron on this 355-yard hole, as there are a host of pot bunkers around 280 that are absolute death. He split the fairway and left another 9-iron, this time from 165. It was right on line but a full club short, and his approach didn't get over a ridge in the middle of the green that guards a back pin. Shaun Norris' birdie effort was on the same line as Tiger's and gave him a good read, and his 40-footer looked good the entire way before sliding just by on the high side.
Another par. It's a steady start, but there is red all over the board. Tiger needs to get it going in the right direction soon, as you have to do all your damage in the first 15 holes at Carnoustie. That finishing stretch is just too brutal to expect any more birdies coming in, so there's some urgency to get some birdies early in the round.
Hole 2, par 4 - Par, E for day, E for tournament
Bit of a missed opportunity there. Deviating from past days' strategy of iron off the tee, Tiger smashed driver way down the second fairway. He hit a little tight draw pitching wedge approach that was perfect for distance and finished about 10 feet right of the hole. Tiger played for a little too much right-to-left break and the putt went begging on the high side.
A tap-in par for a solid par-par start, but that was a good look at birdie. If you're going to shoot a low one and move up the leaderboard, those are the ones you have to make.
Hole 1, par 4 - Par, E for day, E for tournament
Tiger went conservative for the third straight day off the first tee, though his iron drifted into the first cut of rough on the right and left a poor angle to the pin. He tugged his 9-iron approach and found some thick rough left of the green. His bump-and-run didn't roll out as much as he'd have liked, leaving about 12 feet for par. He rolled that one right in the center to avoid dropping a shot at the 1st.
Sometimes, a good par save on the first can put a jolt into the round, especially when it comes with a putt of some length. Let's see if that's the case with Tiger.
On a side note, Shaun Norris started his weekend round at a major with Tiger Woods with a birdie. Impressive.