Your Final Round Frys.com Open: Tiger in Middle of the Pack
By Stephanie Wei under Fall Series

Tiger in his comfort zone: sidelines at the Stanford/Colorado game

Tiger Woods is well into the final round of the Frys.com Open — you know, trying to get that W! Whoops, he really must have meant “W for weekend” in his Wednesday presser. Woods is seven shots back of leader Briny Baird.

By the way, I was cracking up at some of the comments in the last Tiger post (with all due respect to Baird): “Tiger is getting waxed by Briny Baird!” or “Forget Baird, he’s getting waxed by Roland Thatcher, too!” Yeah, I censored those a little, but you get the point.

Great news for Tiger is he shot back-to-back 68s! And it looks like he’ll shoot in the 60s for the THIRD CONSECUTIVE ROUND! Now that’s almost as good as a W, huh? Okay, in all seriousness, if he improves by moving up the ‘board each day, that is a positive.

“The golf course could have been had today,” said Tiger after his third-round Saturday. ” I’m sure somebody will shoot 62 or 3 out there pretty easily…if you drive the ball decent and hit some wedges in there.  Couple of par5s are reachable and then obviously drivable there at 16.  Guys can take it deep out there.”

Turns out he was right — rookie Jim Renner, who is fighting for his card, shot nine-under 62.

Again, Tiger is getting closer, hitting 14 out of 18 greens Saturday.

“It’s gotten better,” said the world’s No. 51 player. “I felt so good over the ball today.  I felt that I hit a couple of bad iron shots, ones that I had wedges in.  I should have stuffed those, but I didn’t.  I didn’t put myself in a position where I needed to be.”

But he doesn’t like the greens.

“No doubt my speed is good, my line is good,” Tiger said. “I’ve just got to learn how to read these things.  They’re a little bit tricky to read, a little bit grainy, actually, which is kind of different.  You wouldn’t think they would be, but they’ve got a little bit of a tug to them.”

In golf-speak, tricky is basically a euphemism for “unfair” or “tricked-up.”

Anyway, back to the rest of the field. Weird to think that Paul Casey is playing to get in the top-125 on the money list to earn fully-exempt status for 2012. Casey has struggled with injuries and some personal problems. He was ranked No. 8 near the end last year and has now dropped to No. 20. In 13 starts, he’s made 9 cuts, with his best finish T12 at the Northern Trust Open in February.

Casey is currently T2 and in good position to surge into the top 125 in money. What a crazy game, huh?

21-year-old Bud Cauley qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open and decided to turn pro. Cauley finished T63 at Congressional, and in five other PGA Tour starts he has two top 25s, including a T4 at the Viking Classic and T13 at the RBC Canadian Open. He’s earned $331,150 and trying to bypass Q-school by earning enough money to put him inside the top 125 on the official Tour Order of merit. He’s in good position to cash a nice check if he keeps up his fine play this week, where he’s currently tied for the lead. He’s also playing in next week’s McGladrey Classic.

“I want to miss Q-school as much as all the rest of the guys,” Cauley said, jokingly. “I may need to earn a little bit more money than some of them. I don’t want to go as bad as they don’t, too. I value every shot out there, and I’m just trying to shoot as low as I can.”

The last player to bypass Q-school was Ryan Moore in 2005.

Then there’s Ernie Els, who has had quite a disappointing season — no wins and no top-tens.

“It’s different feeling,” said Els on Saturday, referring to being back in contention.  “I haven’t been in this position all year.  I don’t think your memory disappears after 20 years of being out here.  So this is what I’ve been working towards, especially after the PGA.  I changed a lot of things and I feel that the work I’ve put in is starting to come through.  I’m starting to feel comfortable on the things I’ve been working on.

“I think the FedEx race was a good test for my game.  I didn’t have any top 10s or anything like that.  I kind of scraped through and I had a lot of pressure on me and on my game.  You’re just trying to survive.  So I feel that’s helped me, and then obviously the work.  I don’t think you forget how to win, you know.  I’ve won quite a few times.  I can take my game and let it flow.”

Els started to show signs of life during the FedExCup, finishing T16 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, including birdieing the 72nd hole to advance to the BMW Championship.

I’d love to see Els, who is currently T2, notch a victory today. Now wouldn’t that be a nice, little comeback story?

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)