Tiger Woods made a charge again at a major championship. Just three weeks after he held the solo lead on the back nine of The Open, Tiger joined the birdie party at the PGA Championship and he will have another late Sunday tee time. Woods finished his third round Saturday evening at 8-under par, and he’ll slot somewhere around second or third when the full field finishes up at Bellerive.
The 4-under 66 was a strong round, but it could have been better. Woods, who played 28 holes on Saturday following a rain out on Friday afternoon, posted five birdies in his first nine holes of the third round. That matched the most birdies he’s ever carded in a nine-hole stretch at a major. The back nine issues that he’s had at Bellerive all week, however, took some air out of his charge. He finished the day with 10 straight pars, including an inexcusable one at the 17th. It was there that he put it on the par-5 green in two, and then three-putted from some 20 feet. That deflated the atmosphere around him and made the task of chasing down likely 54-hole leader Brooks Koepka that much harder.
Here’s Tiger reviewing his round, including that ugly three-putt at the 17th, which, commendably, CBS’ Amanda Balionis asked him about after the day.
Woods is 8-under for the championship following a disastrous 3-over through his first two holes on Thursday morning. At one point on Saturday’s front nine, a birdie at the 8th pulled him within two shots of the lead, a remarkable run given how much the narrative was that he’s “out of gas” all week.
Tiger found something in the middle of that first round, when it looked like he’d eject from the final major of the season with a missed cut. Since then, he’s really figured out how to get around a course where you must be making constant birdies to contend. The ballstriking is perfect — he’s stuffing it pin-high and that’s been the hallmark of his career, and what has defined the success of this comeback season. A stripe off the tee at the par-3 6th led to a bonus birdie on one of the rare difficult holes at Bellerive.
A birdie at the 8th hole pulled him to T3 and just two shots back of the leaders at the time. This course is easy and soft as hell, but it’s still amazing to be able to watch Tiger make these charges on the weekends of major championships in the damn year 2018.
The front nine was not completely clean, with a bogey scattered in there, but an outward 31 was the kind of number he needs to keep pace.
The leaders ahead of him just aren’t going to come back — there is too much talent and the course is too benign for that to happen. Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Gary Woodland — they’re all going to keep making birdies and Koepka is not really making any mistakes. Throw in Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Jon Rahm and others all around Tiger, and we have ourselves an amazing leaderboard on the weekend at a maligned PGA venue.
On Sunday, Tiger obviously has to keep the pedal down, something he’s struggled with on the back nine at Bellerive. Thanks in large part to that ugly start on Thursday morning, he’s played the back nine this week in 2-over, as opposed to a 10-under mark carving up the front nine. It’s awesome that he’s inside the top 5 and could push Koepka, but he cannot give any shots back on Sunday if he wants to have a chance. Koepka is a machine right now.