Tiger Going Into Sunday Holding The Solo Lead
ATLANTA, Ga. – Trying to complete one of the biggest comebacks in sports history, Tiger Woods will take a three-stroke advantage into Sunday’s final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
Winless since 2013 and having undergone four back surgeries, the 42-year-old looked like his vintage self on Saturday, firing the low round, a 5-under-par 65. Woods birdied six of the first seven holes and soared to a five-shot lead.
“The crowd was electric because of it,” said playing partner Justin Rose. “He was running the tables there.”
Woods has registered five consecutive scores in 60’s, his longest run of the year and the most since 2013.
“Yea, I got off to a nice start,” Woods said, laughing.
Woods owns 79 PGA Tour titles, second to Sam Snead with 82. His last came at the 2013 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, a span of 1,876 days.
Woods heads to Sunday with a 54-hole score of 12-under 198, three shots ahead of Rose and Rory McIlroy.
Historically, Woods has been the best final-round closer ever on PGA the Tour. He’s 53-4 when tied or leading after three rounds and has never lost when armed with a three-stroke or higher cushion.
Woods has prevailed 42 of 44 times with the solo advantage. For perspective, 42 wins on the PGA Tour would rank No. 10 on the all-time list, one behind Phil Mickelson’s career total.
“I would love to win this event,” Woods said. “I’ve got a bunch of guys behind me who are playing well. We’ll see what happens.”
Woods has given himself several chances this season. In 17 previous starts, he has recorded six top-10 finishes and earned the back nine lead at the Open Championship. All that remains is securing a W.
Once again, Saturday brought out the best in Woods. He entered with the second-lowest third-round scoring average on Tour at 68.20 but lowered the figure.
Starting the day tied with Rose at 7-under, Woods birdied the par-4 first hole, then made a key four-foot par save at the second. Then he went off.
Woods followed with four consecutive birdies, the last after finding the left fairway bunker off the tee at the par-4 seventh. He clipped his second shot perfectly, the ball settling seven feet left of the pin and poured in the putt.
It was Woods’ longest birdie streak since 2012 at TPC Boston, when he fashioned six in a row. The last time he started with five straights 3’s on his card was in 2003.
Woods could have turned in in 29, but missed the green at the long, uphill par-3 ninth and was unable to get up-and-down. He settled for a 30.
It was one of the few times Woods hasn’t saved par this week. Through three rounds, he has accomplished it 14-of-18 times, tops in the field.
On the second side, Woods added his seventh birdie at the par-4 12th. He made a clutch save at the dangerous and water-flanked par-3 15th, almost holing out a bunker shot and converting a testy five-foot putt.
Woods did well to only drop one shot at the par-4 16th, then parred in.
“I was hitting it absolutely dead flush,” he said. “If I could have added one more on the back nine, it would have been great.”
Woods is also pacing the field in strokes gained: putting and ranks third in strokes gained: tee to green.
He used only 11 putts on the front nine and finished with 23.
On Sunday, Woods will play with McIlroy for the first time in a final round on the PGA Tour.
“Simple math says that if I play a clean card, that guys behind me have to shoot 67 to force into extra,” said Woods. “That helps. I don’t have to shoot 63 or 64 and hope I get help. That’s a big difference. This is a spot I’d much rather be in than four or five back.”
They start at 2:05 p.m. ET.
There is a lot at stake in the last of four FedExCup playoff events. Woods began the week No. 20 in the points standing but could claim his third crown and the $10 million first prize if he wins and Rose finishes fifth or worse. Rose is currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
Woods previously won the Tour Championship in 1999 at the Champions Club in Houston and at East Lake in 2007.