Tiger Woods finally went on a birdie run, dropping five birdies in six holes on his first nine, the back, at Pebble Beach on Saturday morning. After we’d seen Tiger bomb drive and driver in the fairway and hit green after green on his approach shots for two rounds, he actually didn’t have the best ballstriking day, despite posting his best round of the week. As it always is, the difference came with his putting — he needed 27 in the third round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on his way to firing a five-under 67 and jump to solo third, trailing Charlie Wi by four shots.
For a while, it looked like Woods would be paired with Padraig Harrington, but as it turned out, the three-time major champ struggled in his last five holes, including two bogeys and a double-bogey to drop out of contention (though he and his
sandbagger amateur partner J.P McManus are still leading the pro-am portion of the event.
A likeable underdog is searching for his first win on the PGA Tour, trying to keep his nerve and hold off Woods, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, two-time champ a Pebble, among others. Oh, and Phil and Tiger are playing together in the penultimate group at 12:29 ET. It really doesn’t get much better than that — which I wrote in my Saturday column on Golf.com.
“Today was key just for me getting off to a good start to settle Tiger’s nerves a little,” quipped Romo, a scratch handicap, who rolled in five birdies.
The duo posted a 19-under total despite getting no strokes to make the cut and advance to the fourth round.
Woods didn’t hit the ball nearly as well as he had the first two rounds, but he scored with a little help from his putter.
“I made some more putts, and really managed my game well today,” said Woods, who hasn’t won a full-field tournament since the 2009 Australian Masters and hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since the 2009 BMW Championship. “I missed in all the right spots, and even though my game was slightly off today, it’s not as off as it used to be, which is very good.”
As Wi and his caddie, Mark Urbanek, were reading a 40-foot putt for birdie on No. 12, Wi said, “Time to roll one of these in here, buddy.”
It did indeed go in.
Now the question is whether Wi will be able to hold his nerve on Sunday. He’s been open with the press about “fighting off demons” from past experiences. Perhaps playing with journeyman Duke in the last tee time on Sunday will take some of the pressure off.
As I’ve been tweeting, fans should stop camping out for an optimal seat to watch the Tiger-Phil show in the final round. I’d love to see Cousin Charlie hold off the bigger names, even though I picked Tiger to win by five at the start of the week and it’d be good for the game, but you know, it’d be great to keep it in the 韋 family (sorry, kind of an inside joke).
Oh, by the way, Arjun Atwal is truly a very good friend. Atwal has been battling a back injury the past week or so, but he didn’t back out and took one for his pal, who definitely enjoyed the company and comfort level that comes along with playing with his frequent practice round buddy. Had it been any other player besides Atwal, that guy would have been on the first flight home, and the other way around — had Tiger not been relying on Atwal’s company, he would have withdrawn. So for those making fun of Arjun’s play, you might want to eat your words! The guy really is Tiger’s BFF. Did we ever hear him even bring it up or complain, or show indication he was suffering through a strained back? Nope. What a class act.
Alright, so who you got tomorrow? I’m a little worried Charlie will start to hear roars in front of him on the back nine and begin to flounder. Just ask Matt Gogel, who knows all about Tiger pulling off the unthinkable coming down the stretch at this event. Rewind to 2000 — in fact, Gogel, who was the on-course announcer with Woods’ group on Saturday, had a flashback moment on No. 15…and joked about slapping Woods. Let’s save that story for tomorrow, though.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)