In golf, Saturday is called moving day, and at THE PLAYERS, nobody moved more than Tiger Woods, who started in last place and, with a 65, ended up in a tie for ninth. It was his lowest round of the year.
“I finally got off to a good start,” Woods said after he finished. “I birdied the first couple of holes and I just kept it rolling from there.”
Rolling indeed. Woods had six birdies on the front nine, at the first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth. It was really extraordinary. He was able to add two more on the 11th and 12th, and then his run stalled.
He bogeyed the 14th, always one of the toughest holes on the course, and parred in. In other words, it could have been lower.
“I hit a lot of, overall, the whole day, a lot of quality shots and 65 was probably as high as I could have shot today,” he added.
In other words, it could have been a 64, 63, 62 or better.
What has been the difference? It has to do with getting into the feeling of playing high level tournament golf.
“I got my playing feels back and it's just a matter of playing and executing and putting the shots together,” he explained. “I've hit quality irons before and I was able to convert today and got rolling early.”
Woods has been struggling this year, trying to piece together his previously world class game. However, it is only his eighth tournament of 2018, and he has had chances to win at three of them so far, the Honda, Valspar and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“Eventually, I was going to put all the pieces together, and today, for the most part, I did that,” he added. “I hit some shots in the correct spots, which was nice. I hit probably three of the best long irons I've hit all week.”
Realistically, Woods’ chances to overtake THE PLAYERS leader Webb Simpson are slim. Because Woods is in ninth place, he would need to shoot another 65 or better, have everyone ahead of him play average or below average golf and have Webb Simpson fall on his longish putter and shoot the worst round of his career. In other words, it doesn’t look good for a Woods victory.
For perspective, the biggest comeback in golf tournament history, according to the research desk at the PGA Tour, is by Paul Lawrie in the 1999 British Open. Lawrie closed a 10-shot deficit primarily because Jean van de Velde, the leader, hit from the rough on the 18th hole into the Barry Burn, a creek, and made several mistakes after, giving him a seven on the par four. That caused a playoff that van de Velde lost to Lawrie.
The biggest lead that was lost on the PGA Tour is six strokes, by seven players, and we’ll save them the embarrassment by not mentioning their names.
Look for NBC and Golf Channel to spend plenty of time on Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, who also shot 65 and is tied with Woods. If you are at the course, try to watch Woods early, and then find a place to rest where you can see great shots and disasters and see what happens. It could be historic.