Get out the popcorn, golf fans. They may not be bringing up the rear in the finale at Muirfield Village Golf Club, but there’s no doubt the penultimate matchup of Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler will be the marquee pairing on Sunday at Jack’s tourney.
Really, what more could Tim Finchem and the suits at Ponte Vedra ask for than the 72-tour winner and embodiment of the PGA Tour’s “establishment” generation trying to match Nicklaus’s victory total by going mano a mano with Mr. Young Gun himself?
“That sounds like fun tomorrow,” CBS Sports broadcaster David Feherty said in a classic understatement about the prospect of a Tiger-Rickie duel. For sure, Feherty’s colleague Nick Faldo summed it up succinctly when he said the contest between the grizzled veteran in red and black and the kid in neon orange “will be huge.”
Woods, fighting allergies that may have developed into a cold and/or the flu, could not really get anything going during Saturday’s third round in which he shot a 1-over 73. But the former No. 1 made no excuses in his post-round face-to-face with CBS’ Peter Kostis.
“I got a little tired at the end but so be it,” Woods said about a round that included a three-putt bogey from 19 feet at the par-3 16th and ended with a bogey on the par-4 18th. “I had my opportunities to move up that board and I didn’t do it on that back nine. I missed a few putts I should have made but I’m still in the ball game.”
As Woods noted, he was “still in the ball game” at four shots off Spencer Levin’s 8-under pace, “so anything can happen out here.”
About the possibility of tying Nicklaus’ PGA wins’ record, Woods was reluctant to take that virtual leap.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to go and do tomorrow so I can’t look at it that way,” he said. “I’ve got to look at the fact that I’m four back right now and I’m going to focus on that....I need to grind it out and obviously post a good number.”
Fowler, for his part, closed out the day with a 69 and will enter the final round one shot better than his playing partner. Levin, who played with the other Rory on Saturday, draws Sabbatini (7-under through 54 holes) as his Sunday opponent.