Tour thoroughbred Tiger Woods broke down Saturday, blowing a four-stroke overnight lead. The worlds No. 1 ranked player shot 2-over 74 ' his worst round as a professional at this event ' to enter the final round one clear of Len Mattiace.
I still have the lead, said the two-time defending champion. That I was able to hang in there and still maintain the lead, Im very pleased with that. Like I said, it could have been a lot worse today.
Mattiace, the Nissan Open champion, followed a second-round 66 with a 68 to move to 9-under for the tournament. Scott McCarron (72), Michael Campbell (68), Chad Campbell (68), Pat Perez (69) and John Huston (70) are all tied at minus 8.
A group of gargantuan names are three back, including Phil Mickelson (69), Vijay Singh (69), Scott Hoch (70), Sergio Garcia (70), Jose Maria Olazabal (70), John Daly (71), Ernie Els (72) and Angel Cabrera (72).
This is the 24th time Woods will enter the final round on the PGA Tour with at least a share of the lead. Hes converted 21 of his previous 23 tries into victories. The lone exceptions were losing to Ed Fiori in the 1996 Quad Cities Classic, and to Mickelson in the 2000 Tour Championship.
If he is to make it 22 for 24, he'll have to improve greatly on Saturday's performance. While the weather was obtrusively hot, Woods could never get warm.
He battled his swing for the better portion of his round. After hitting every fairway through six holes ' and playing that stretch in even par ' Tiger three-putted from 20 feet on the par-3 seventh to fall to 11-under.
Playing alongside Woods, McCarron cut his deficit to a single shot by playing the first seven holes in 2-under.
He followed Tigers bogey at the first with a bogey of his own at the second. However, he birdied Nos. 3-5 to climb within a two of Woods, who also birdied the par-5 fourth. And when Tiger lipped out from three feet at No. 7, the deficit was but one.
Tigers troubles off the tee began at the par-4 eighth. He blasted a driver over the left fairway bunkers, into the gallery. With tree limbs impeding a high approach shot, and the greenside water preventing a low runner, Woods pitched out into the fairway, from where he got up and down for par.
Still leading by one, Woods pulled another tee shot into the gallery on the par-4 ninth. After getting relief from the cart path, he again was forced to pitch out. This time, though, he was unable to save par from 61 yards.
Tigers overnight lead of four dissipated in just nine holes. Woods shot 2-over 38 on the front, while McCarron carded a 34.
I just didnt feel comfortable, Woods said. Its disappointing not to play well...I had a good warm-up session on the range, and it just got progressively worse as I played.
Joked McCarron, 'I must have been intimidating him out there.'
It wasnt just McCarron closing in on an embattled Woods. Several of the games top-ranked players made a mid-round move, only to lose their grips coming home.
Garcia moved to within one of the lead at minus 9, but dropped three shots on Nos. 11-17. An emphatic birdie at the last kept him within reach at 7-under. Likewise, Els overcame a double bogey at the 11th with a birdie at the 18th to get within three.
Singh, Mickelson and Daly all had opportunities no narrow the gap, but couldnt. Daly was tied for the lead at 9-under, but bogeyed the 14th and 18th holes, missing an 18-inch putt at the last.
Woods and McCarron displayed a grinding exhibition on the back nine. Both men started at 10-under. Each bogeyed the par-4 10th, and birdied the par-5 12th.
Tiger managed to fight his way to even par over his final six holes. McCarron, however, bogeyed 16 and 17, and then went to practice before nightfall.
'We had a long wait on 16, probably over a half an hour, 40-minute wait, and I think i just lost my MoJo a little bit there,' McCarron said.
Tiger bypassed the range Saturday, but will be undergo a little practice session prior to his 1:50 p.m. EST tee time Sunday.
I know what Im doing Im doing wrong, he said. Its just a matter of stopping.
Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Inivitational