5 Things: Woods hovers; trap lurks; more
PHOTOS: Tiger Woods at WGC-Bridgestone
Tiger Woods' second-round 61 tied the course record at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio, as he tries for his eighth win in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. See his week in pictures.
AKRON, Ohio – Ah, those PGA Tour officials are so old-fashioned, so by-the-book. Though Tiger Woods confirmed Saturday what he had announced Friday, that he had won the Bridgestone Invitational, officials refused to give him the trophy, the money, and the accolades.
Something about this World Golf Championship mandated to being a 72-hole tournament, which means we’ve got to go through the formalities Sunday and play 18 more holes.
Anyway, on a day when Woods sprayed just enough loose shots to show off his all-world short game during a 2-under 68 effort that pushed him to 15-under, here are 5 Things to Know from the third round at Firestone Country Club:
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1. WOODS CAME UP SHORT: Saying he started the day wanting to add to his seven-stroke lead, the world’s top-ranked player failed, though he wasn’t all that upset.
“For most of the day I was doing that,” Woods said, a reference to the fact that he at times had an eight-stroke lead before he settled for yet another seven-stroke cushion. “Ended up being a dead push for the day, but that’s not too bad, either.”
The story of his dominating performance – and why one shouldn’t expect him to squander it Sunday – can be told in numbers. To whit:
- 52, as in the number of times he has gone on to win with his 56 third-round leads.
- 7, as in how many strokes he leads by. Though here’s the sort of dominating performer Woods is: Four times he’s led by even more after three days.
- 8, as in how many under par he is during three passes at Nos. 1-3 at Firestone (just in case you think he might get off to a rough start Sunday).
- 10, as in how many under par he is during three tours of the front nine at Firestone (see above explanation).
- 37, as in how many bogey-free holes he had in a row from mid-Thursday morning until he lost a shot at the par-4 ninth Saturday.
- 35, as in how many times he has been in the 60s in 55 trips around Firestone in this tournament.
- 3, as in how many wins Woods will be behind Sam Snead’s career mark (82) once this party at Firestone is made official today.
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2. IDEA – TIGER WITH MARKER: Here's a thought: Send Woods out with a marker so that the boys who are fighting for second place can have the pairings built around them.
Don’t laugh, it’s a jam-packed race for second.
Henrik Stenson, at 8 under, has the dubious distinction of being paired in the final group with Woods – which is another way of saying that he has a one-stroke lead over Jason Dufner for second. It doesn’t stop there, though, because three players are at 6 under (Luke Donald, Bill Haas, Chris Wood), and Keegan Bradley is at 5 under, along with the always-popular Miguel Angel Jimenez.
In all, eight players are within five shots of Stenson’s lead . . . for second.
“I’m right up there close to the leaderboard,” said Dufner after shooting 67. “Not really close to what Tiger is doing, though.”
Stenson got the inevitable questions about whether he was really chasing the lead or just trying to finish second and he handled them with style.
“I’m just happy with the way I’m playing and if he’s too far ahead, he’s too far ahead. It might be a race for second, but we’ll see tomorrow.”
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3. IT HASN'T BEEN PERFECT: Not to spoil Woods’ victory march, but what’s with playing the par-5 16th in 2 over this week?
Woods grimaced, perfectionist that he is, but everything with that 650-yarder (or 660 or 667, depending on where the tees are; but bottom line, it is one big, massive hole) starts with the drive. And while Woods insists he “tattooed” his tee shot in Round 3, it ended up where his first-round drive landed, in the bunker.
If you don’t get onto the flat part of the bunker – and Woods didn’t Saturday, just as he didn’t Thursday – one can only advance the shot a hundred yards or so. That means you’ve then got to hammer your third shot just to get it into wedge range.
Woods didn’t get his wedge shot close Thursday, and his 18-footer for par didn’t fall in Round 3, either.
Not that Woods is the only one who has struggled there. The field average at 16 is 5.000 for three days, with only 42 birdies. None belong to Woods, and that stings a little bit.
“Basically,” he said, “I just need to get longer. I need to hit the ball a little bit farther and take that bunker out of play.”
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4. WOODS' SHOW, BUT WOOD SHINES: Having sat out much of the spring and early summer with back pain, Chris Wood is just thrilled to be back in the competitive arena.
The fact that he’s in the thick of things in this World Golf Championship event so soon after his back issues is very much a positive. The fact that it brought him a front-row seat to see Woods in Round 3 is something that brought a smile to his face.
“Totally new experience for me,” said Wood, an unheralded 25-year-old Englishman who stands 6-foot-5 but is truly a gentle giant. “It was probably better than I could have hoped for, to be honest.”
Starting the day tied with Keegan Bradley at 6 under and seven behind Woods, Wood knew he wanted to ease into the round and not let things get away from him. Birdies at the par-5 second and par-4 third did just that.
“Loved every minute of it. Chatted away a little bit (with Woods) and after three or four holes, I felt a lot more settled than I thought I might,” said the Englishman.
Particularly impressive, said Wood, was the short-game wizardry displayed by Woods. Though he only hit half of his 18 greens, Woods made just three bogeys, getting it up-and-down almost at will and even pitching in from 40 feet left of the 13th green.
“If he misses the green or he’s out of position, it’s absolute master class in damage limitation,” Woods said.
As for his own game, though he didn’t make a birdie after the third and had bogeys at the fourth and 18th to shoot level-par 70, Wood heads into the fourth round tied for fourth. Yes, he’s nine behind Woods, but the race for second is just two back and there’s the issue of massive world-ranking points.
“I’m here to try to break into the top 50 in the world,” said Wood, No. 71, “and I’ve got a good chance (Sunday).”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Jason Dufner went until the seventh hole before he made a par. He opened with four straight birdies, doubled the par-3 fifth, then birdied the par-4 sixth. He settled into steady golf from there on - two birdies, two bogeys, eight pars. . . . Only four players have broken par each day: Woods, Dufner, Donald, and Haas. . . . There have been seven eagles during three rounds, all at the par-5 second. . . . After back-to-back 74s, Charl Schwartzel posted Saturday’s best score, a bogey-free 64. . . . The next-best score belonged to Jimenez, at 65. The Spaniard finished birdie-birdie-birdie as he came home in a tidy 31 strokes.