Tiger Woods’ Saturday at Torrey Pines was a case-study in posting a score when your game isn’t up to snuff.
In a round that only saw Woods hit three fairways and nine greens, Tiger posted a 2-under par 70, which moved him 26 places up the leaderboard and into the middle of the pack heading into Sunday’s final round at Torrey Pines.
❤️ of a champion. pic.twitter.com/nbvSZsn3Is
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 28, 2018
There was only one way to describe it, only one reasonable commentary for another round that included just three fairways hit and even more what-on-Earth-was-that? shots.
“It was gross,” Tiger Woods said Saturday.
The tone for his third round of the Farmers Insurance Open was set early, with his first tee shot tracking toward the out-of-bounds fence left before expiring in heavy rough. He spent most of his day with his head down, trudging toward delirious gallery members, most of whom got closer to Woods than they ever could have imagined. Caddie Joe LaCava might as well have had “Fore!” playing on a loop.
Woods was left.
And then he was right. Way right.
On it went for five hours, Woods having little idea where his ball was going, fans ducking for cover, and playing partner Brandt Snedeker shaking his head.
Because Woods didn’t sign for a score in the 80s Saturday. Didn’t even sign for something over par. No, on a sun-splashed afternoon on Torrey Pines’ difficult South Course, Woods somehow made only two bogeys (both on par 3s) and shot a 2-under 70 – four shots better than Snedeker, enough to climb 26 spots on the leaderboard.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 27, 2018
When a radio announcer asked afterward whether it seemed like it had all come together in the third round, Woods stared at him as if he’d spoken Greek.
“I don’t know about coming together,” he said bemusedly. “It was a struggle out there. I didn’t hit it worth a darn all day. I was really struggling out there to find anything resembling a golf swing. But I was scoring. I was chipping, putting. I was grinding.”
Across three rounds, he has hit only 14 of 42 fairways. That has led to him finding just 30 of 54 greens. Woods called it “gross,” and he wasn’t wrong.
But there’s more to this game than statistics, than center-cut drives and pin-seeking approaches, and in that gray area is where Woods has excelled this week. He has scored. He’s at 3-under 213, in a tie for 39th, which is ahead of world No. 5 Hideki Matsuyama and recent Tour winner Patrick Cantlay and even his old rival, Phil Mickelson.
Those three players rank ahead of him in every meaningful ball-striking statistic, and yet Woods, even with more than two years of competitive rust, is ahead where it matters most.
“The only thing I have,” he said, “is my short game and my heart. That got me through today.”
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