CARMEL, Ind. – Tiger Woods and Saturdays get along as well as Democrats and Republicans. They tolerate each other, but they aren’t particularly fond of each other.
Or maybe in this case, Rory McIlroy should take some blame.
At any rate, after playing well alongside McIlroy for the first two rounds, Woods shot a Saturday 71 during the third round of the BMW Championship and got lapped. He didn’t seem inspired, didn’t appear to be as interested as he was during the first 36 holes.
Woods moved from second place to eighth place, made bogey from the middle of fairway several times, and his longtime nemesis Phil Mickelson made 10 birdies to card a 64. Adam Scott and Robert Garrigus both shot 66. Jim Furyk posted 67. The scoring average for the day was 70.02. Woods’ Round 3 scoring average since the Masters is 71.1.
You get the picture. Woods was average on a day when many were much better. Moving Day continues to be an enigma for Woods.
“I grinded hard,” Woods said. “I didn’t have much.”
The first eight holes were downright painful – literally and figuratively. Woods made four bogeys between Nos. 3-8, was six shots off the lead and began walking with a noticeable limp. A chip-in birdie on the par-5 ninth hole made the limp go away and it stopped the proverbial bleeding. He made birdie on three of the first four holes on the back nine, and followed with five consecutive pars to shoot 71.
To pull within three shots of the lead took a vigorous effort, but Woods is in eighth place and this isn’t a leaderboard filled with chumps. Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Scott, Garrigus and Dustin Johnson are all ahead of him. There’s little chance all play poorly Sunday.
“I have to probably shoot 63 or 64 tomorrow to have a chance,” Woods said.
Woods is paired with Johnson, and that could be the spark he needs. Playing with McIlroy the first two days was exciting for Woods, although you’ll never get him to admit it. He was engaged, he and Rory were chatting like long lost brothers, he wanted to match McIlroy shot for shot. There was something special about the focus being solely on them.
Johnson could provide something similar for Woods. DJ hasn’t won major championships like McIlroy – and doesn’t have the fanfare – but he’s young, hits the ball miles and has a game that Woods likes to watch closely. Woods may not chat with Johnson as much as he has with McIlroy, but it’s a comfortable pairing. They’ll be Ryder Cup teammates in three weeks.
The pairing won’t matter though if Woods gets off to a start like he did Saturday. The round must be flawless, his game must be in tip-top shape and he needs a little help. Much like the third round, Woods hasn’t played particularly well in final round most of this year. He does, however, have closing 66s to draw upon from last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship and last month’s Bridgestone Invitational.
A victory is possible although it’ll take a Herculean effort.
“I’m just trying to scrap it around out there,” Woods said. “I’m just waiting for that one good ball-striking day, and with the way I’m chipping and putting right now, it can be done. I just need to do it.”