Atlanta, Georgia- Moving Day at any golf tournament always produces the most intense and dramatic moments. And whenever Tiger Woods is in the mix, the thunderous noise of the patrons can be heard miles away. When Woods opened his third round with six birdies in seven holes, it was a throwback to a time when the Big Cat dominated the sport. Remember the routs at the 1997 Masters or the 2000 U.S. Open when Tiger won by 16 strokes? It was that type of dominant ball striking and lights-out putting that we saw on the Front 9 of Woods’ third round.
“Throughout this year, I’ve been streaky with my putter,” says Woods. “This week I have been consistent. My speed has been good. I’m seeing the arc of the putts, and the best part is that I’m releasing that toe, and that toe feels like it’s hooking every time. It’s a great feeling and I feel great when I’ve got a lot of release in my hands.”
Woods Credits Shot on 16 in Saving His Round
There are shots within the course of a round that define the outlook of a tournament. Tiger Woods’ fourth shot, given the circumstances, was one of those moments. After hitting his tee shot into the rough, Tiger’s second shot came out hot and went right to the primary rough. However, his bump and run fourth shot got him within one foot of the hole, securing the up and down for a bogey that could have been much worse.
“The fourth shot was money because I was practicing that in the practice round, hitting a 56 or a 60, and I couldn’t quite get it right,” says Woods. “So I went with the 60 today, and I made sure I hooked it in there with a little bit of hook spin so that first hop kicked through the grain, and it came out nicely.”
With solid shots like his fourth on the 16th under pressure, Tiger was able to salvage his success earlier in the round by not giving up a lot of strokes.
“I was trying to make sure that I stayed committed to what I was doing, trying to make sure that if I missed it, I missed on the correct spots.”
Tiger and Rory McIlroy in Final Group Setting Up Epic Clash
Tiger will be paired with a younger generation superstar Rory McIlroy, who has always relished the opportunity of playing with the Big Cat. But as McIlroy states, it’s all about staying within himself and focusing on what he has to do in order to win this golf tournament, currently three back of Tiger.
“All I can do is worry about myself,” says McIlroy. “It doesn’t matter who it is I’m playing. It’s obviously exciting for the golf tournament. It’s exciting for golf in general that he’s up there. But for me, all I can do is concentrate on myself. The game is hard enough without having to look at other people. I have to take care of my business and that’s good enough.”
Another player looking to make history is Justin Rose, also three back of Woods. Rose is in the fascinating position of not only trying to win the golf tournament but secure the $10 million FedEx Cup, which he is currently projected to win tomorrow. His strategy: go out there and play to win the TOUR Championship so that clinching scenarios don’t come into question.
“Tiger is going to be tough to beat tomorrow. Although he hasn’t won for a long time, I’m sure it’s going to be hard for him tomorrow,” says Rose. “But I think for me, my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. It’ll help my other task of trying to win the FedEx Cup by playing positive golf.”
Woods On Doorsteps of First PGA Tour Victory Since 2013
2013 is five years ago. Five years is a long time. And that’s how long it has been since Tiger Woods has won a PGA Tour event. With a win tomorrow, Tiger will have 80 PGA Tour victories, inching closer to Sam Snead’s number of 82. In the tournaments that Tiger has had a 54-hole lead, he has only lost once, which was to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship. It has been awhile since Woods has been in the 54-hole lead of a tournament but he has enough previous experience to fall back on heading into tomorrow.
“Things haven’t felt that abnormal to me even though it has been years since I have been in these spots. I’ve been in those spots enough times that I have built up enough muscle memory to remember what it’s like to close out a victory, so it makes me feel comfortable.”
As East Lake prepares to welcome in a raucous gallery to cheer on one of golf’s endearing legends, it still feels surreal that one year ago, Tiger was lying in bed at his house in Florida, in an abundance of pain and uncertain whether he will ever play again. Now, he is back on top of the leaderboard at the TOUR Championship, first in strokes gained: putting and is looking to secure that elusive PGA Tour win.
“I would love to be able to this event,” says Woods. “I’ve got a three shot lead. I’ve got a bunch of guys behind me that have been playing well and are playing well, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”