August 01, 2015

Tiger suffers setback at Quicken Loans National

After two stellar rounds, Tiger Woods backed up Saturday in the third round of the $6.7 million Quicken Loans National at steamy Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. The two-time winner and tournament host slipped to a 3-over-par 74 and fell from a tie for fifth to a tie for 42nd.

Woods has a 54-hole total of 5-under 208, nine strokes behind co-leaders Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell. An early starter, Merritt fired a course-record 61.

“I never quite felt comfortable,” Woods said of his swing. “It was a fight all day.”

Beginning the third round two strokes behind leader Ryo Ishikawa, Woods failed to capitalize on the soft, calm conditions and missed the first six fairways. Paired in the fourth-to-last twosome with long-time friend Charles Howell III, Tiger kept his round together with impressive scrambling in the 90-degree heat, getting up-and-down for pars on five of the first seven holes.

Following seven straight pars to begin the day, Woods crushed a 339-yard drive at the 585-yard par-5 eighth hole – finding his first fairway — and was left with 286 yards to the green. He smashed a fairway wood over the green and the ball settled on a path of wood chips. Electing not to take a drop, Tiger hit his third shot over the green and wound up two-putting for bogey from long range.

Woods two-putted the par-3 ninth from 40 feet and made the turn in 1-over 37, hitting only one fairway and four of nine greens.

After a two-putt par at No. 10, Tiger pulled a 7-iron at the downhill 198-yard par-3 11th, and the ball skipped over the green into a hazard. After taking a drop, he chipped 12 feet past the hole and two-putted for a double-bogey.

Woods nearly regained one shot at the par-4 12th, where he hit a nice drive and 8-iron from 176 yards about 15 feet left of the hole. His birdie putt looked true, but curled around the right edge of the cup and refused to fall.

At the par-4 13th, Tiger pulled his second shot with a 9-iron from 165 yards into the thick rough on the left and short-sided himself. He flopped his third shot 15 feet past the pin and two-putted for a bogey.

Woods nearly birdied the 550-yard par-5 14th hole, where he hit another good drive, then blocked a 3-iron from 245 yards into the right greenside bunker. Tiger hit a nice explosion shot 10 feet past the hole and burned the left edge of the cup with his birdie attempt.

The only player in the field without a birdie, Woods took care of that stat at the par-4 15th, where he flushed a good drive and knocked an 8-iron from 141 yards eight feet left of the pin and sank the putt, allowing himself a quick smile. He made it two in a row at the 187-yard par-3 16th, where he covered the flag with a 7-iron and almost holed out on the fly, the ball stopping seven inches from the cup and denying him his fourth hole-in-one on the PGA Tour. Had Tiger scored an ace, a fan would have won $1 million.

Woods gave himself another great birdie chance at the short par-4 17th, where he hit a 9-iron from 144 yards about 14 feet below the pin. The birdie putt looked good, but just slid by the left edge.

At the 462-yard par-4 18th, Tiger hit a big hook into the left trees and the ball settled into deep fescue grass near the hazard. After taking an unplayable lie, Woods hit a blind, uphill third shot with a 5-iron from 212 yards, threading it between several trees, and wound up well right of the green near the grandstand. Although he received a drop, Tiger still had a nearly impossible downhill shot over a bunker and almost no green to work with. Somehow, he judged the flop shot perfectly, the ball clearing the sand by about a foot and stopping three feet short of the hole, then converted for a hard-working bogey.

Woods ended the day by hitting 10 of 18 greens and seven of 14 fairways, while using 29 putts.

“Thank god my short game is back,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve felt with the putter, and I rolled it pure.”

Tiger tees off Sunday at 10:41 ET with John Huh. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation and local charities.