Tiger falters but remains in control
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2005 British Open | Round Three | 17 Jul 2005
If he wasn’t already aware that despite a four shot lead heading into round three, he would have a fight on his hand to win the Open Championship in 2005, Tiger Woods would have been very much aware of the task he faced as he walked on to the first tee today.
Alongside the first fairway the leaderboard told the story. Many of the early starters had taken full advantage of perhaps the best scoring conditions the old lady of golf, St Andrews, could provide. She was playing her part in creating a scenario to refute the claims that this was Tiger’s title already. As Tiger walked to the first tee he will have been aware that Tim Clark, seven holes ahead, had moved within three and John Daly and Scott Verplank had joined Colin Montgomerie, who was waiting on the first tee with Tiger, at seven under.
Not long after Peter Lonard birdied the 2nd to move to seven under also and Retief Goosen, who had started out almost three hours earlier would soon birdie the 14th to also move to seven under at that point. Stuart Appleby too was about to join the fray when he birdied the 8th from 30 feet to move to seven under.
As Tiger walked onto the first green, Phil Mickelson – almost the forgotten man over the first two days – drove the green at the par four 10th and when he made birdie he too was at seven under. They were coming from near and far and the question would be as to just how Tiger would react. Would he again dominate proceedings and put himself in an unreachable position by the end of 54 holes or would the classy line-up behind him and the subtleties and demands of St Andrews play their role?
The answer came quickly. The breeze seemed to pick up as the leading pair left the first tee and, after a rock solid par at the first, Woods took bogey at the 2nd after his approach came up short. While this was going on, Goosen was adding further birdies at the 15th and 16th and all of a sudden the difference between he and Tiger was just one. The tournament had been transformed in the space of thirty minutes and it was a case of buckle in and enjoy the ride – if you were a spectator that is.
Woods was under further pressure at the third when he missed the green left but hit a beautiful putt to save par.
Woods hit a brilliant tee shot at the 5th and then a majestic second to get things back on track with a two putt birdie and he was back to his starting score of 11 under. He was two ahead of Goosen, who had bogeyed the 17th but who had birdied the last after a three wood found the putting surface.
Woods though, perhaps understandably, just did not appear to be at the same level he had been on days one and two and when he hit his tee shot right at the par four 6th into an unplayable lie, he took bogey and the difference was again just one.
There were others continuing to make their move. Sergio Garcia, who had been a little slow out of the blocks this week, opened with a bogey but when he eagled the 9th after driving the green he had moved to 8 under and was full of adrenalin and on the move.
Tiger was long at the par three 8th, although he somehow managed to save par, but it was at the 9th when he again found trouble from the tee. A driver would be too much and so perhaps trying to let his three wood move with the breeze he turned it over just a little and again he was forced to take an unplayable. He was only just off the green though and managed to save par with a nice two putt from that point.
Montgomerie took driver at the 9th and found the green and when Tiger had two putted he was within one. Twenty minutes later, Jose Maria Olazabal would join Montgomeire in a share of second place when he drove the 350 yard 12th and holed a lengthy eagle putt. He was one back and with Montgomerie taking bogey at the 11th he was alone in second place just one behind. Olazabal was fired up, perhaps too much so because at the 13th he drove it in the fairway bunker and took bogey. Tiger was ahead by two once again and it was about to become three when Woods birdied the 12th.
The last six or seven holes were playing tough but the three main contenders, still on the course, played them well. All three birdied the last after minor indiscretions on the way in and when the dust had settled over an intriguing day three, Woods was safely back in control of the tournament by two over Jose Maria Olazabal and by three over Retief Goosen and Colin Montgomerie.
As was the case with day three, the final round and the chances of those stacked up behind the world number one will be dependant on Tiger Woods himself. As was the case a month ago at Pinehurst when Retief Goosen took a commanding lead into day four, it is Tiger Woods’ tournament to win or lose. An under par round may well be good enough but anything less could see any one of seven or eight players, perhaps down as far as seven under, in with a chance.
The Australians challenged briefly then faded. In the end it is Adam Scott at five under, who leads the 11 who made the cut into the final day. Peter Lonard and Stuart Appleby made promising starts but Lonard would drop five shots in five holes from the 5th to lose all chance. Appleby moved to seven under through 8 holes for the tournament but fell victim to the closing stretch where he dropped three shots in the last five holes. He is at four under one back of Scott and shares that mark with Richard Green.
If Lonard’s day was disappointing, spare a thought also for Robert Allenby. At six under he was in good shape heading into the day but emerged from the wreck after one triple bogey, one double and three other bogeys saw him finish with 79 and he slipped from a share of third to 66th. His ordinary British Open record continues.
Open Championship Sunday appears likely to end in another Tiger Woods victory. As we saw today however there is plenty that St Andrews itself, and an array of the word’s finest players within striking distance, might yet have to say in the outcome.