ATLANTA – Tiger Woods has one more round to make his 2012 season memorable.
Despite three victories this year, Woods went 0-for-4 in the majors. A playoff double with victory at the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup would salvage his season.
Four shots back of co-leaders Brandt Snedeker (64) and Justin Rose (68), who are tied at 8-under 202 after three rounds at East Lake Golf Club, Woods says it’s doable after his 3-under 67 left him tied for seventh.
“I’ve done it before,” said Woods, who won the Arnold Palmer, Memorial and AT&T National titles this year. “I’ve been out here a long time, and just claw your way back into it, and usually I’ll take a round in the 60s. I figured the guys aren’t going to go out and run off and hide on this golf course. It’s just playing too difficult.”
Of his 74 career Tour victories, one came at East Lake, in the 2007 Tour Championship, but Woods’ history at the venerable club east of Atlanta rivals that of Bobby Jones. Woods has four runner-up finishes here, including his last visit to the playoff finale, in 2009.
In 31 rounds around East Lake, Woods has recorded 23 scores in the 60s, including 10 of 66 or better. He likely will need a similarly low number in Sunday’s final round to have a chance at the $1.44 million first prize and $10 million bonus for the FedEx Cup champion.
“I’m only four back,” Woods said. “I’ve got a shot at it tomorrow.”
The good news for Woods: He has only six players in front of him, including Ryan Moore (65–204), Rory McIlroy (68–205), Bubba Watson (70–205) and Jim Furyk (72–205). The bad news: Woods for the second straight day hit shots all over East Lake, effectively playing the 7,319-yard, par-70 course about 300 yards longer.
When Woods shot 4-under 66 in Thursday’s first round, he hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens. On Friday, the driver started to act up, and Woods hit only eight fairways, 11 greens and shot 3-over 73, his worst score at East Lake since his first visit in 1998, when he started 75-76.
In Saturday’s third round, Woods’ driver was a continual problem as he hit only six of 14 fairways. However, numerous recoveries kept him in position to contend Sunday.
Maybe his best save came on the 16th hole, a 481-yard par 4. Woods hit a driver far right, and his escape was going between two trees. He didn’t get out cleanly, hitting a tree, but the ball kicked into the fairway and when he drained a par-saving 11-foot putt, Woods had made a Houdini-like escape.
“Yeah, that was nice because obviously, it was a bad, bad tee shot over there, and to be able to get a par, that kept the momentum going and not drop a shot,” Woods said.
Woods maintains that his focus is on the victory Sunday. The last time he has come back from four shots was just three months ago at the Memorial Tournament. Four back of Spencer Levin, Woods shot a final round 5-under 67 that included making three birdies over the last four holes for a two-shot victory.
“Today was fun because I striped it today,” Woods said after his Memorial victory. “It was just every shot was exactly the shape, the trajectory, the distance control. I had it all today: shape off tees, whatever club I wanted to hit, I could hit. That was fun to have it when I needed it.”
Woods will need something similar here Sunday or he will board on the plane to Chicago and the Ryder Cup thinking about a season that could have been.