When you pluck your golf ball from the crook of a tree limb and still par the hole, you pretty much know it’s going to be a good day.
“I’m just glad I didn’t try and play that ball from the tree,” co-leader Rory McIlroy told reporters with a laugh after finishing nine holes on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course with a 4-under 32 in Saturday’s third round that was cut short by threatening weather.
The co-leader (along with Vijay Singh) is at 6-under heading into a long day of golf in which he and 25 others will have to finish their third rounds before starting the finale. McIlroy is looking forward to the challenge.
“The way I’m looking at it, I’m going into the final day of the final major of the season tied for the lead, so I can’t ask for much more,” McIlroy said after Saturday’s abbreviated round that he started with two quick birdies. “I don’t care if it’s going to be 27 holes, 18 holes, 36 holes; I’m just happy to be going in there in a good position.”
McIlroy, who got some help on the third hole when one of the TV guys told him his ball was lodged between the bark and the tree he hit with his tee shot, was one of a number of dramatic story lines unfolding as the horn blew at 4:50 p.m. ET, suspending play until Sunday. While a win for the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland would make him younger than Tiger Woods was when he won his second major championship, Singh (at 49 years of age) would be the oldest golfer ever to win a major should he be the last man standing Sunday night.
Then there's Adam Scott, who was seeking redemption after blowing his final-round lead at the British Open. One stroke back of the leaders as Saturday’s play ended, the Aussie has a chance to rebound from his gut-wrenching English experience much the way McIlroy did when he won last year’s U.S. Open after coughing it up at the Masters.
And, of course, there’s Tiger Woods. The co-leader when Saturday began continued his abysmal weekend play in this year’s majors, as he bogeyed three of his last four holes before the horn blew.
Indeed, it seemed to be deja vu all over again for Woods, who shared the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open before vomiting on his shoes. With his scoring average more than a stroke higher in his last two rounds of each major than on Thursday and Friday (71.75 compared with 70.66), and playing the weekend at 16-over par through 115 holes -- including seven on Saturday -- who doesn’t wonder what’s up with Tiger’s inability to close?
It all seemed to start with that late-innings PGA Championship loss to Y.E. Yang in 2009 -- a tourney Woods would, no doubt, like to forget but that CBS reran during the extended rain delay. (Yang, by the way, tweeted that he never tired of watching his improbable come-from-behind win that ended Woods’ 14-for-14 streak of major victories when he entered the final round with at least a share of the lead.)
To Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo, Woods’ blown saves were all about that elusive 15th.
“He is so desperate to win that next major,” Nobilo said Saturday night. “He’s just desperate, which is a very human property that just about every other player, bar Tiger Woods, used to be.
“Tiger Woods, at the moment, when he’s desperate, then all of a sudden his golf becomes... I would never use the word ordinary, but it becomes pretty close to it,” Nobilo said.
The halting of play could not have come at a better time for the world’s No. 2, Nobilo said, given that Woods was staring down an eight-foot par putt on the eighth green when the inclement weather blew in.
“That was essential,” Nobilo said about Woods’ opportunity for a reset. “He gets a chance to at least reevaluate what happened. If it is nerves and it is tension that’s one thing he could address because...he has 10 more holes to play.
“[If] that ran on another couple of holes, you don’t know what the situation could have been,” Nobilo added. “It was a dreadful start for Tiger.”
Woods, for his part, was all about painting lipstick on the pig.
“I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going,” said Woods, who had fallen back to 1-under for the tournament. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.”
That’s for sure, and the day- night doubleheader starts with the conclusion of the third round on Sunday at 7:45 a.m. ET. The final round will be played in threesomes, with players going off Nos. 1 and 10 and tee times running from 11:44 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.