Tiger Woods may have to ditch his conservative British Open game plan if he hopes to do something he's never done before and win a major by coming from behind after 54 holes.
Woods did not play himself out of the tourney on Saturday as he did in the third round at the U.S. Open in June. In fact, he gathered himself to finish his front nine at 1-under 33 after a shaky start. And shaky it certainly was, as Woods bogeyed the first and third holes.
The 14-time major winner regrouped, carding birdies on three of four holes before making the turn and getting within four strokes of leader Adam Scott at one point. Just plodding along without taking any chances and waiting for the leaders to come back to him, however, is unlikely to help Woods get within chipping distance of Scott, who at 11-under will take a four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker and a five-stroke advantage over Tiger heading into Sunday’s final round.
Indeed, Woods -- through his alter ego, website editor Mark Soltau -- admitted as much after scoring an even-par 70 by leaving his driver in the bag for most of the tourney.
“The 36-year-old Woods, a three-time winner of the Claret Jug, might have to alter his strategy,” Soltau wrote Saturday night. “For three rounds, he has played conservatively off the tee, hitting mostly irons to avoid the 205 bunkers on the course. While he has only found two, Tiger has also left himself with long approach shots to the greens.”
Case in point: Woods hit iron off the tee on the 462-yard, par-4 15th and a 228-yard approach shot with a 5-iron came up short. He had to settle for bogey when his putt from off the green left him a six-footer for par, which he missed.
Woods conceded that his position, looking up at former bagman Steve Williams’ current boss, would likely require a bolder game plan on Sunday.
“When you’re behind, you’ve got to make birdies,” Woods said, prompting Soltau to remark that such a goal “would suggest more woods off the tee” like the driver he blasted 327 yards down the fairway on the par-5 seventh and from which he made an easy birdie after flirting with an eagle.
For sure, Soltau noted, if Scott continued to perform like a man on a mission for his first major title, “Tiger will have to take more chances to chase him down.”
Playing it safe has spiffed up Woods’ stats -- through three rounds, he has hit 37 of 42 fairways and reached 72 percent of greens in regulation -- but the time to making something happen is running out.
"I still think I have to go out there and shoot an under-par round," said Woods, who will tee off with Snedeker in the penultimate twosome at 9:20 a.m. ET.