March 08, 2014

Tiger sinks eight birdies in dominant third round

When Tiger Woods gets rolling, he’s as dangerous as any player in the game — even with a balky back. That was the case Saturday at Trump National Doral in Miami.

Starting the third round six strokes off the lead and tied for 25th, Woods tamed the newly-renovated Blue Monster with a 6-under-par 66 — the lowest round of the tournament. He has a 54-hole score of 1-under 215 and is tied for fourth, three strokes behind pacesetter Patrick Reed.

“Absolutely,” Tiger said when asked if Saturday’s score constituted his most complete round of the year. “I hit the ball a lot better than I did at Honda last Saturday.”

In the latter, Woods posted a 5-under 65, but wound up withdrawing on the back nine Sunday due to lower back spasms. Tiger wasn’t sure if he would be able to compete this week at a place he has won four times as a professional, and didn’t play a practice round to rest his back. He’s still not 100 percent, especially after playing 26 holes Friday to complete Thursday’s storm-suspended first round.

“My back was pretty sore last night,” Woods said. “Being on the golf course for nine hours is a long day. It gets progressively sorer as the day goes on.”

The key for Woods was rebounding from a tough 76 opening round to shoot 73 in blustery conditions that did not yield one score in the 60s.

“I held it together yesterday,” Woods said. “That gave me a chance today. I figured, hey, I’m only six back, that’s definitely doable, especially with the conditions and how difficult the golf course is playing.”

Paired with Henrik Stenson for the third straight day, Tiger made eight birdies and two bogeys on Saturday, as the wind calmed and gave players a chance to score. Woods made four birdies and one bogey on each side, shooting 3-under 33s, and shined down the stretch, playing the challenging last five holes in 2-under.

“I played well,” Tiger said. “It was nice to get off to a good start.”

Woods birdied the 567-yard, par-5 first hole by blasting his third shot from a greenside bunker within seven feet of the pin and made the putt. He recorded his second birdie at the 436-yard, par-4 third, where he knocked his approach shot from 147 yards 13 feet from the cup and made the putt.

Tiger bogeyed the 203-yard, par-3 fourth, but rebounded quickly with a birdie at the 421-yard, par-4 fifth, where he hit a nice approach shot from 154 yards to 11 feet and made the putt. After pars at six and seven, Woods added another birdie at the 539-yard, par-5 eighth. He hit a big drive, then ran his 3-iron second shot from 236 yards just over the green. Tiger hit a long chip five feet from the pin and poured in the putt.

At the 197-yard, par-3 ninth, Woods just missed the green to the left and elected to putt. He hit a nice lag two feet from the hole and made the putt.

After making par at the par-5 10th hole, where Tiger failed to get up-and-down from 102 yards, he reeled off two birdies in a row. At the 422-yard, par-4 11th, Woods knocked his second shot from 181 yards just inside 16 feet and buried the putt. At the 584-yard, par-5 12th, he played short of the green with his second shot, then punched his third four feet from the pin and made the putt.

Tiger bogeyed the 238-yard, par-3 13th. His tee shot found the left greenside bunker, where he blasted 31 feet from the cup and two-putted.

After a par at 14, Woods drained a 35-foot birdie putt at the 161-yard, par-3 15th hole.

“That was nice,” he said. “It was a lot faster than it looked.”

At the short par-4 16th, Tiger drove into the left greenside bunker, then splashed his second shot three feet from the hole and made the birdie putt. Woods did well to two-putt the par-4 17th, lagging his birdie attempt from 55 feet within four feet of the cup.

Woods ripped a 325-yard drive down the fairway at the demanding 460-yard, par-4 18th, which features water down the left side and trees on the right. Needing only a sand wedge to reach the green, Tiger came up short and was fortunate his ball didn’t trickle left into the water.

 “I just fatted it,” Woods said.

 Woods chipped to four feet and salvaged par to conclude a very satisfying day.

“I got my speed right,” he said of his good putting. “I felt like I hit the ball a little better and left myself in good spots.”

Tiger hit 8 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens and finished with only 25 putts. He also birdied three of the four par-5s.

Woods tees off in the second-to-last twosome on Sunday with Hunter Mahan at 2:35 p.m. ET. Tiger has won the tournament seven times.