The ball circled the cup, shot out and the crowd’s roar turned into a groan.
With a single revolution of a golf ball around the 18th hole, Tiger Woods fell out of the final pairing and was left with a third round, 2-under par 68. It left him two strokes behind leader Jason Gore in a three-way tie for second.
On a day when Woods carded only one bogey, the missed birdie opportunities left a far bigger sting.
Woods barely missed a 10-foot birdie attempt on the sixth hole, lipped out a birdie putt on No. 13 and burned the edge on his birdie try on No. 15, a hole that 37 players birdied on Saturday.
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A birdie putt on No. 16 – to go with birdies on No. 1 and No. 5 – helped Woods regain a little ground, but the bogey on No. 18 meant he wouldn’t catch Gore. After 12 birdies and an eagle in the first two rounds, Woods carded three birdies on Saturday.
After Friday’s round, Woods mentioned that he needed to leave more of his approach shots below the hole. He was able to do that Saturday on his first two holes – one of which led to a birdie – but there weren’t many other approaches that settled where he wanted.
“It was a grind today,” Woods said. “Like yesterday, I kept leaving myself above the hole (it) seemed like on every hole. I had to putt so defensively because of it. I couldn’t get on the run that Jason (Gore) and Jonas (Blixt) did. I just didn’t put myself in the right spots.”
That’s not to suggest Woods played a poor round. He nailed 11 of 14 fairways and landed on 14 of 18 greens. His iron accuracy, though, took a bit of a hit. After his 21 1/2-foot green proximity to the hole led the field on Friday, his third-round average fell to nearly 28 feet. His putting statistics didn’t falter much – he only putted one more time on Saturday than Friday – but the extra distance might have played a role in his lack of birdies.
Woods seemed pleased with his putts, even the one that left him with his lone bogey.
“I felt good,” Woods said. “Very steady from the word go, you know. Putter just felt really good. My pace – I felt like I could be aggressive today. I took a few runs at putts and ripped them past the hole. I just never felt like I was going to miss any of them. I took a rip at them and some I made, some I didn’t.”
Woods would save par on a number of holes, including No. 3 and No. 17, and did just enough to keep himself in contention for the final round. But as Woods pointed out after his round, as good as those par putts may feel, they won’t result in a trophy Sunday night.
“Tomorrow is going to be just like today,” Woods said. “You can get on a run and make a tear and make a bunch of birdies. It’s not a golf course in which you can sit and make a bunch of pars and expect to win. You got to go get it.”
DiLalla: 919-829-0835; @AricDiLalla