Tiger Woods 'played like crap,' in need of momentum ahead of PGA Championship

AKRON, OH - AUGUST 04: Tiger Woods plays his shot from the second tee during World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational - Round Three at Firestone Country Club South Course on August 4, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods 'played like crap,' in need of momentum ahead of PGA Championship

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods 'played like crap,' in need of momentum ahead of PGA Championship

AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods usually walks ahead of the pack when he’s playing well, say after a birdie followed by a smooth drive down the middle of the fairway. He practically bolts off the tee box, moving with speed and purpose.

After a disappointing par-par start Saturday, Woods hung back on the third tee box. He had just yanked an iron to the left and into a tree, his ball travelling a mere 146 yards leaving 283 in.

As he walked slowly, behind the rest of the group, Woods was trying to figure out what was wrong. He stopped, pantomiming swings and trying to get back to whatever worked so well over four rounds at the British Open.

A similar scene played out on several holes and he never found it during a 3-over 73 in Round 3 of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Now there’s some urgency ahead of Sunday’s 11:20 a.m. ET tee time alongside Wade Ormsby, with Woods going straight to St. Louis for the PGA Championship.

“Just played like crap,” Woods said. “I didn’t warm up very well. I didn’t hit the ball crisp or clean. Very similar to, you know, the first day. The difference is I made everything the first day. Today I didn’t make anything.”

Caddie Joe LaCava saw what Woods saw in Round 1, when he putted well enough to shoot 4-under 66, and said it would catch up to him if it didn’t get better. The course played tougher Saturday and Woods didn’t get better, leading to his worst third-round score of the year.

Woods started the day five shots off the lead and moved to seven back after his first bogey of the day at No. 7. Needing to shoot something low to stay in contention, he turned in his worst round since an opening 78 at the U.S. Open and his second highest score since the Wells Fargo Championship back in May.

“Just feel like I really couldn’t turn it around today,” Woods said. “Just felt off. I had a little bit of a pull, a little bit of a block, a little here, a little there. Just wasn’t as sharp as I needed to be.”

Woods made his first and only birdie of the day at the par-3 12th and the fans erupted, chanting his name as he walked toward the 13th tee box. By then it was 3:40 p.m., nearly 2.5 hours after he teed off and the damage had been done. He followed with back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 and missed birdie putts at 16, 17 and 18 to stumble into the clubhouse.

He hit half of the fairways for the third straight day but only reached 9 of 18 greens compared to 13 in Rounds 1-2.

Part of the reason Woods looked so good at Carnoustie is that he hit more than 66 percent of the fairways and ranked T-5 in driving accuracy. He’s T-35 this week and hasn’t been as sharp with his irons when he does find the short stuff.

Now that he’s out of contention here, T-28 and 11 shots back of leader Justin Thomas, Sunday’s round is about getting it figured out ahead of Bellerive. He was sharp mostly all week at the British Open, but the first three days at Firestone have looked a lot more like the T-32 at the Masters and missed cut at Shinnecock.

Back in the old days, Woods said, he used to run three or four miles after a round just to cool off. That’s not happening anymore. At age 42 it’s more about recovery, especially now that he’s set to play in at least two playoff events after the PGA Championship.

“Try to go out there and shoot a low round tomorrow,” Woods said. “Just try and build into Thursday and get some positive momentum going into next week.”

He still got a hero’s welcome for his final go-round in Akron, even after things started to go south Saturday.

“We’ll miss you more than LeBron!” a fan shouted while Woods was in the fairway on three.

Woods will miss the event too, something he’s been talking about all week. He won’t add a ninth title at Firestone, and he won’t have time to hang around for a proper farewell Sunday.

There’s too much to fix in too little time, but Woods has been able to flip that switch without a minute’s notice at times throughout the year. He just couldn’t do it mid-round Saturday, leaving 18 holes to turn the corner and get back in front of the pack entering St. Louis.

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