ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – For a third consecutive day, Tiger Woods said he played well.
A head-scratcher, perhaps, since he began the day eight shots back and tied for 14th, and ended it 12 behind and tied for 18th.
In other words, the man didn’t exactly put on a charge. Instead, he slammed his second shot into gorse at the par-5 fifth, made bogey, then added three more bogeys so that by the end of the day he was even being outscored by an amateur, Jin Jeong.
Let’s put it this way: Woods would have to shoot 56 Sunday to match his winning score at St. Andrews in 2000, or 61 to equal what he did to win at the Old Course in 2005.
Elsewhere along the hallowed links in Round 3…
OLE! OLE, OLE, OLE! Perhaps in a bid to repair the sad news that was created when Seve Ballesteros was deemed too unhealthy to visit St. Andrews this week, his compatriots from Spain starred in Round 3. Sergio Garcia shot 70 to move into a tie for 12th, young Alejandro Canizares continued to be the surprise of the tournament, Ignacio Garrido is tied for 17th, and Miguel Angel Jimenez provided the most excitement with the way he played the legendary “Road Hole” 17th. He tried to hit a flop shot off a tight lie over the dastardly bunker, but it went long and came to rest against the wall. No worries, Jimenez put his back to the flagstick and hit the ball so that it ricocheted off the wall and onto the green. The crowd roared, and even though Jimenez made double, they loved it.
FITTING CHOICE OF WORDS, GIVEN HIS HISTORY: Asked about the weather, Henrik Stenson said, “It feels like the wind is trying to rip your pants off – and that’s not a good thing.” It was Stenson, of course, who made headlines at the 2009 CA Championship when he stripped to his boxers to play a shot out of the hazard at Doral.
WE’LL ASSUME HE’S DISAPPOINTED: And why not, because Phil Mickelson used that word twice to answer the first post-round question, then once to answer the last question. The lefthander shot 2-under 70 on a day when he felt he hit it well enough to go deep into the 60s. Instead of a climb up the leaderboard, he is just 2 under and tied for 27th. On the verge of going 0-for-17 in the Open Championship, Mickelson refused to question his decision to hit 5-iron off the tee at the 423-yard 16th.
“It was just a bad swing,” Mickelson said. “I was trying to hit a low hook and I hit it a little too quick.”
EASY FINISH: There were more than twice as many eagles and birdies (47) made at the 18th than at Nos. 15, 16 and 17 combined (21). So easy was it that Stewart Cink made the second eagle of the tournament there. (Anders Hansen in Round 1 made the other.)
HE MUST WIN THE SKINS POOL, NO? Henrik Stenson picked a special place to make the shot of the day. He holed a lob wedge from 105 yards for eagle at the 465-yard, par-4 13th, a hole that played second-toughest at a field average of 4.306. Only one birdie was made, by Phil Mickelson, while the field of 77 made 24 bogeys and one double.
“It landed, I guess, perfectly, and after a while the crowd went crazy, which I took as a good sign,” Stenson said.
LEARNING CURVE: One month after crashing in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he stumbled to a closing 82, Dustin Johnson is back on the first page of the leaderboard at the Open Championship. Playing in his second Open Championship after missing the cut at Turnberry a year ago, he shot 3-under 69 on Saturday to move to 6 under for 54 holes.
“I’m in a position where you can make a run tomorrow, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
One of the game’s longer hitters, Johnson made a wise move in not trying to overpower the wind at the tricky par-3 11th, where players faced a huge crosswind. From 170 yards, Johnson pulled out a 4-iron and kept the ball along the ground, setting up a par he was more than glad to make. What was the impetus for that? He got the idea from playing an early-week practice round with Phil Mickelson.
“He hit that shot, and I’m like, that’s kind of interesting,” Johnson said. “Why would you do that? And he goes, ‘Sometimes the wind gets blowing really hard sideways, and it’s too hard to control the golf ball.’ ”
PERSPECTIVE: Robert Allenby, on the brutal Road Hole, the 495-yard 17th: “I played it well – three pars. That’s like 3 under.”
WHAT WAS THAT YOU SAID? One day after shooting 66 and telling reporters that “I’ve never run from mistakes,” John Daly did just that Friday night. After shooting a second-round 76, crashing from T-3 to T-56, Daly refused to face the music, storming past reporters at the interview area. With a third-round 74, Daly fell to T-41 at level par.
HAIR, HAIR: Historians within the Royal & Ancient are tackling a research project that might prove fruitless: See if there’s ever been an Open Championship where two players wearing ponytails have made the cut. It’s a fierce competition right now between Jimenez (213) and Marcel Siem (216).
TILEY’S TUMBLE: When play was halted just after 9:30 p.m. Friday night, unheralded Steven Tiley was 6 under and tied for third. He was also heading to bed with fuel for a nightmare: Knowledge that he’d resume his second round at the par-3 11th hole.
“Tossed and turned all night,” Tiley told reporters. His fears were realized, because he came up short, rolled a putt up the bank that came back to his feet, and made double-bogey. He followed with a three-putt bogey at the par-4 12th and went on to play his eight holes in 7-over to free-fall into a share of 56th. What else to do but seize that silver lining.
“I told myself to go out and enjoy (the third round), that not many people get to play Saturday of the British Open,” the Englishman said. “And I did enjoy it a bit more (than his second-round finish).”
OTHER KEY CONTRIBUTORS: The cut went from 1 over to 2 over, thanks in part to Tiley’s poor finish, though Gregory Havret, Mark O’Meara and Michael Sim helped, too. All of them were 1 over when they resumed play Saturday morning and proceeded to play their remaining holes in a cumulative 15 over. It meant that 77 players made it in at 2 over, though Havret, O’Meara and Sim all missed.
THANK-YOU NOTES ARE COMING: Among the 10 players who made the cut at 2-over was Rickie Fowler, whose British Open debut had been rocked by a 79 Thursday. He fought back with a 67, but still thought he’d fall one short. To monitor things, Fowler got up at 6:30 Saturday morning (”A little earlier wake-up call than I would have liked,” he said) and by 8:15 realized he had a good chance of getting in. Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel were among those who also got the good news over Saturday breakfast.