Woods promptly hit it way right into the trees, which also wasnt that surprising since nothing has seemed to go according to plan for Woods since he opened his first umbrella at Bethpage Black. No matter, because the screams were always going to be there for Woods as long as they were selling beer along the first fairway.
You can do better Tigah, one fan shouted out.
That finish put me so far back I had to try and make up shots the entire time, he said.
That left Woods with a major problem as he began what would be a splintered final round, one that wont be finished until sometime Monday. For much of Sunday he was so far back he seemed almost certainly out of it, no matter what he ' or the well-lubricated fans at Bethpage ' thought about the pedigree of the leaders.
But just as all appeared lost came a putt in the gathering darkness. It wasnt much, about eight feet for birdie on the seventh hole, but it sent a message nonetheless.
Yes, the pulse is still weak. But somehow Woods is still alive.
That alone raised some hope that not all is lost in what so far has been a maddening and joyless Open. It will also raise some ratings for television, which begins broadcasting Monday morning about the same time workers are reaching for that first cup of coffee in offices around the country.
Its more than NBC executives could have hoped for after a day in which the best golf they could find to show were highlights of Woods stirring win at Torrey Pines last year.
But theres even more.
Golfs biggest smile will light up television sets, too. And Phil Mickelson is not only also alive in the Open, but bordering on almost well.
Right now its still the Lucas and Ricky show. But it wouldnt take much for it to star Tiger and Phil.
I feel like Im only 18 good holes away, Mickelson said before teeing off for his fourth round.
Make that 16 good holes, after Mickelson opened with a pair of pars before play was halted because of darkness. He gained one shot on a faltering Ricky Barnes and went home just five off the lead shared by Barnes and Lucas Glover.
Better yet, theres no one in between. If the pressure starts taking its toll as it most often does in the final round of the Open, Mickelson should have a straight shot toward the top.
Stranger things have happened. And theres been no stranger Open than this one.
I feel like if I can get a hot round going, I can make up the difference, Mickelson said.
That would have seemed almost laughable for much of Sundays gloomy third round. Mickelson was 10 shots down before closing with two birdies in his last three holes, part of a run in which he halved the lead in just five holes.
Woods was even further out of it. Midway through his third round he was 15 shots back, and now hes only seven. True, he has only 11 holes to make that up and there are five players between him and the lead, but, then again, he is Tiger Woods.
The thought of Woods on the prowl had to make the leaders even more unsettled than the weather. Thats especially true for Barnes, who just graduated from the Nationwide Tour and went to bed knowing hell return to a ball snarled in deep rough on the second hole and an almost certain bogey or worse.
Mickelson should worry them more, if only because he has found so many ways to lose Opens that it may be his turn to find a way to win his first one. Like Woods, hell also have a very vocal backing on Monday from New Yorkers who adopted him as one of their own seven years ago and seem to love him even more now that hes on a mission to bring the trophy home to his ailing wife.
If Mickelson somehow succeeds, hell have even more to smile about.
And maybe this Open will be one to remember instead of one everyone so far wants just to forget.