I caught up with Tiger Woods and Ernie Els on the 8th hole and watched them grind away for seven holes in the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship (before I lost interest).
Both had ho-hum days on Sunday at TPC Boston. Tiger made some clutch par putts, but he missed more birdie opportunities. He carded two birdies early, and for a hole and a half, I thought he was going to gain momentum to post a really low round. Considering he had a pretty good ballstriking day — despite misjudging the wind several times — his game looked somewhat average, but his focus appeared as good as it’s been.
On No. 8 Tiger rammed his birdie attempt 10 feet past the hole. When the ball finally stopped, he stared in bewilderment and disgust before barking, “God dammit, Tiger!” He sank his par putt coming back, though.
He seemed to be in good spirits on the ninth tee, walking over to chat with a few familiar reporters as he waited for Els to hit.
After Tiger’s awful start with four bogeys in his first six holes, he didn’t card another one for 39 holes. His five-footer for par on No. 9 lipped out hard. He waited until the crosswalk between the ninth green and tenth tee to let out another (restrained) “God dammit, Tiger!”
On the tenth green he missed a makeable birdie after he stuck his approach. “Nice putt,” he said sarcastically.
The wind swirling through the trees at TPC Boston also befuddled the pair.
“Come on, wind,” chided Tiger after hitting his tee shot on the par-3. He looked at his caddie, Stevie Williams, and threw his arm up out of exasperation.
Sitting on a little mound by the 11th green, I watched as Tiger stared down his 11-footer for par. Just when he was about to pull his putter back, I heard a camera click to the right of me. I looked over horrified and Tiger backed off his putt with an irritated expression. A photographer a few feet from me gestured and mumbled apologies.
Stevie showed restraint, but Els and his caddie were less forgiving. Els shook his head in disapproval, while his caddie stared at the photographer for a good 30 seconds. I mean, he stared. (If looks could kill…) The embarrassed photog fumbled more with his camera while Tiger regrouped. Els’ caddie turned his head toward him again and just, you know, stared. It was real awkward. For a moment, I thought he was going to walk over and headbutt the photog.
Thank God Tiger made the putt.
On the 14th he lipped out for par (again) from about eight feet. Sheesh, he hasn’t been able to make anything in the past five holes, I thought to myself.
“Overall today I think I played better than what my score indicated,” Tiger said after he birdied 18 to post a two-under 69. “I had a lot of putts that I didn’t make today. I made a couple nice par putts, but boy, I missed a lot of birdie putts.”
Tiger will need more of those to drop on Monday if he wants to keep his No. 1 world ranking, which Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker are both in position to take from him. This week is Tiger’s 11th start in 2010 and the longest stretch in a season without winning.
Here now, are “dejected Tiger” photos from Sunday’s round — like I said, he was grinding:
[Photos by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com]