Woods heads leading trio at Masters
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2009 Australian Masters | Round Three | 14 Nov 2009
The outcome of the JB Were Masters lies in the balance tonight after the hottest favourite imaginable, Tiger Woods, surrendered a three shot lead in today’s third round at Kingston Heath. Woods now shares the lead at 10 under with rookie PGA Tour professional, James Nitties, and Nitties’ fellow Australian PGA Tour player Greg Chalmers.
It was a day that concerned Woods even before he started.
“There was a bad warm up today, didn’t hall the ball very good on the range and the golf course wasn’t very good either. I hit some really good shots out there today but also hit some terrible golf shots. There was no grey area. With the putting it was the same I either hit a god putt or an atrocious putt so I am very fortunate to be tied for the lead.”
“Jason and I were both surprised about how soft the greens were as dry as they had been yesterday.”
The start he made indicated that this was not going to be one of Woods great days. He missed the almost compulsory birdie at the first, the easiest hole on the course, and despite making a lengthy birdie putt at the second he was short with his approach at the 3rd and missed a 5 footer for par. The ominous signs on the driving range were becoming reality.
Woods parred the next seven holes, at times unconvincingly, but when he missed the green left at the par three 11th and failed to get up and down he had had fallen two behind Greg Chalmers who was impressive on his way to the turn in 32.
Chalmers was unable to birdie either of the par fives on the back nine and when he bogeyed the par four 16th he had surrendered the outright lead but shared it with Woods and with Nitties who moved to double digits when he birdied the par five 14th.
Chalmers had a great chance at the last for the one birdie that would have taken him to the outright lead but he missed and appeared a little distracted by the ground announcer whose microphone may have been inadvertently left on after introducing Chalmers and Nitties as they walked to the final green.
Woods was able to secure a birdie at the par five 14th after two fine shots just short of the green were followed by a pitch to 5 feet which he converted and at 10 under he was back where he had started the day. He would go on to par the final four holes and with a round of 72 he shares the 54 hole lead.
Woods was heading for the range tonight to sort out a few issues.
“I know what I need to do, that’s the thing, and when I did it right today I hit some really good shots,” he said. “It’s just a matter of doing it consistently.”
Nitties was bogey free today adding birdies at the 1st, 8th and 14th holes to finish with a round of 69 and is in that group of three at 10 under. Nitties was surprised not so much to find himself in a share of the lead but with the round of 72 by Woods. “I never expected Tiger to shoot even par especially given that the conditions were even easier today than yesterday,” he said.
“I wanted to play with Tiger tomorrow as he is my idol,” said Nitties referring to the fact that he will play in the final group with Chalmers tomorrow. “I am happy however as I had the best ball striking round of the week and have played myself into form after a five week break.”
Victorian Cameron Percy, who is playing with the confidence that comes with having recently graduated to the PGA Tour, crept into calculations with a round of 69 to move to 8 under and within two of the lead. He shares that with the American Jason Dufner who will be disappointed having outplayed Woods for much of the day only to drop two shots late.
New Zealander Tim Wilkinson and Francois Delamontagne are the next best at 7 under and within three of the lead. Delamontagne is the leading European Tour player bearing in mind that this event is co-sanctioned with the European Tour.
Wilkinson on the other hand is playing his first tournament since June after damaging his thumb and then being forced to have surgery on it. He is a talented player who in his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2008 won more than US$1.2 million. He will have a Medical Exemption to play the PGA Tour again in 2010.
The best rounds of the day were those of Victorian Alistair Presnell and Swede Klas Eriksson who recorded 66 while Wilkinson had 67.
So what of tomorrow? It is hard to imagine that Woods can play that badly again. If he returns to the form of earlier in the week then a round of 68 or better is very much likely and if that is the case then he shuts the door on those at 7 under and below.
If Woods struggles again, however, then players back as far as 5 under might yet consider themselves chances of being in the mix tomorrow as they know Chalmers and Nitties are more vulnerable than an in form Tiger Woods.
Nitties and Chalmers do however have a great chance tomorrow to be involved in a huge upset if they are to topple arguably the greatest the game has seen.
“I’ll be nervous but once you are on the golf course routine tends to kick in,” said Nitties after his round today. "It will be tonight that I am more nervous than when on the golf course and in my routine tomorrow.
Tomorrow brings to an end an outstanding week, the result considerably more unpredictable than it might have been 24 hours ago. Tiger Woods is still the favourite but he will be forced to work for the title.