SHANGHAI – Adam Scott believes his caddie’s racial comment about former boss Tiger Woods was taken out of context and wasn’t a distraction to him. He showed that much in the final hour of the HSBC Champions to charge back into contention.
Steve Williams was given a mock award for “Celebration of the Year” at the caddies’ awards dinner.
In an evening full of banter and salty language, Williams was being interviewed on stage when he was asked why he gave a TV interview after Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational. “My aim was to shove it right up that black -------.”
Williams issued an apology before the third round of the HSBC Champions, and Scott said that was enough for him.
“Didn’t distract me too badly in the end today,” Scott said after a birdie-birdie-eagle finish for a 69, leaving him three shots behind Fredrik Jacobson going into the final round of the World Golf Championship.
“Look, anything with Tiger involved is a story,” Scott said. “I value Steve’s contribution to my game and to have him on the bag. While he’s caddying, I hope he can caddie for me.”
Overlooked in all this was Jacobson, who won his first PGA Tour event this summer at the Travelers Championship and is on the cusp of adding an even bigger title at Sheshan International.
Jacobson ran in birdie putts of 30 feet and 40 feet on consecutive holes on the back nine, then finished with four pars for a 5-under 67 that gave him a two-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen.
Jacobson was at 16-under 200, breaking by two shots the 54-hole tournament record.
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy finally got on track with bogey-free round of 65 and was at 12-under 204, along with Lee Westwood, who had a 67. Martin Kaymer (68) and Graeme McDowell (67) were five shots behind.
Westwood and McIlroy will be in the penultimate group, with their own small drama. McIlroy two weeks ago left the International Sports Management group that includes Westwood.
He has exchanged banter with Westwood on Twitter this year that had a bit of an edge to it, and McIlroy stopped following Westwood on Twitter after leaving Chubby Chandler and ISM.
Even so, nothing compared with the squabble going on with Williams and Woods, which features Scott trying to keep neutral ground. Westwood, Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter were among those who walked away when the topic shifted to Williams and Woods.
“I’ve had an ear infection for two weeks and I couldn’t hear a lot of what was going on,” Westwood said sarcastically. “So it would be wrong for me to comment on anything.”
The leaders didn’t care, either. At stake Sunday is something they feel is far more important.
Jacobson took the lead Friday with a 66, and he has not shown any indications that he will stop firing at flags on a Sheshan International course that remains vulnerable with occasional light rain and an overcast sky.
“I think I’ve been playing aggressive all week,” Jacobson said. “It’s one of those weeks I think you’ve got to keep putting good numbers on the board. So you can’t really play too safe.”
Oosthuizen recently returned to form after the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, and a 63 in the second round put him in the mix. He had another bogey-free round, with a birdie on the final hole keeping him in range.
“Tomorrow, everyone is going to be pumped up because it’s a great leaderboard going into the final round,” Oosthuizen said. “I think everyone wants that title, so you’re going to see some good golf.”
Indeed, it was the strongest leaderboard of all the World Golf Championships this year. Jacobson will be playing in the last group with a former British Open champion and Scott, who has won The Players Championship and a WGC event.
The next group features Westwood, a former world No. 1, a U.S Open champion (McIlroy) and former PGA champion (Kaymer). After that is McDowell, another U.S. Open champ.
Scott had the most exciting day, and it wasn’t all about Williams.
He was lingering behind Jacobson when his tee shot on the par-5 eighth went left into a creek. Scott saw enough of the ball that he rolled up his pants and stepped into the water to play the shot.
But it popped up on him, and stayed in the creek. He had no choice but to go back toward the tee to play his fourth shot. From there, he hit 5-iron over the trees and into the fairway, then 3-iron to the green. He did well to escape with double bogey.
Right when it appeared he was too far back, Scott hit a wedge to tap-in range on the 16th for birdie, hit 5-iron to 8 feet on the 17th for birdie, when ended a wild day - on and off the course - with a wedge from 105 yards that spun back into the hole for eagle.
Just like that, he was three shots behind and still in there with a chance to talk about his golf.
In his only other win this year, the WGC at Firestone, the spotlight shifted from Scott to Williams when the caddie said in a network TV interview that it was the “best win of my life,” even though he had been on the bag for 13 of Woods’ majors.