Projecting Tiger Woods' Day 4 Score at 2013 British Open
The world No. 1 shot a one-over 72 in extremely difficult conditions at Muirfield Golf Links to tie Hunter Mahan in second place at one-under overall. He was paired with Westwood in Round 3, but the Englishman simply bested him with a 70 to take the 54-hole lead by two.
Considering the fact that Westwood is carrying the pressure of finally winning his first major and was playing alongside the greatest champion in the modern era, it was nothing short of spectacular.
After that display, what can be expected from Woods on Sunday in Gullane, Scotland, as he chases major No. 15?
Shane Bacon of Yahoo! points out how Woods has now gone 13 consecutive weekend rounds in majors without a score in the 60s:
Tiger's third round 72 makes it 13 straight weekend rounds at a major without a round in the 60s for Woods.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) July 20, 2013
However, it may not take a score of minus-two or better to be the victor.
Woods has never won a major without at least a share of the 54-hole lead—a fact that's sure to be beaten into the ground on Sunday if it hasn't been already.
ESPN's Rick Reilly, who has been known to dig into Woods at times, brought up a wonderful point in his favor on Saturday. Reilly noted how Woods may be 0-for-47 when trailing after three rounds in a major, but he's been behind by one stroke with one hole to go on two previous occasions.
At the 2000 PGA Championship—at the height of his dominance—Woods holed a birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff with Bob May, which he then won.
There's also the the legendarily gutsy performance at the 2008 U.S. Open, when Woods hacked a wedge out of the thick rough at Torrey Pines onto the par-five 18th green and then willed home the right-to-left downhill putt to square things up with Rocco Mediate.
The rest is history, as Woods went on to win in 19 holes in the Monday playoff.
It's also a frequently referenced point in history, because that was the last time Woods won a major.
Being clutch in a tournament like the current Open Championship isn't necessarily about making birdies, but rather about saving pars—and even holing out lengthy bogey putts when required. That's something Westwood did on the 16th hole, when it looked like the Woods of old may reassert himself and grab a stranglehold on the Open.
The great news for Woods is that he absorbed just about the strongest punch Westwood could possibly throw—which included a continuation of uncharacteristically phenomenal putting—and walked away minimally scathed.
Although he did bogey No. 17 and leave a birdie putt in the heart of the hole but short at the last, Woods is still in ideal position to capture his fourth Claret Jug. If there were ever a time to do it for the hyper-competitive Woods, it's now.
In Round 4, he will be paired with Adam Scott, the reigning Masters winner, who has Woods' former caddie Steve Williams by his side.
That will only heighten the public awareness of this marquee pairing between Scott and Woods, as the former looks to become the first champion at both the Masters and the British Open since Woods himself did it in 2005.
Woods likely won't want to see a record of his fall—especially with his old caddie on the bag.
Motivation should be higher than ever for Woods to stick it to Williams and anyone who has doubted he'd ever win a major again.
There are so many players gunning for their first majors, including the final pairing of Westwood and Hunter Mahan, so it will be as trying as ever for Woods to ascend to the top by Sunday's end.
With how literally hard and fast Muirfield is playing, the conditions will dictate the score Woods will be shooting for, which is what he told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the round, per Jason Sobel of Golf Channel:
Good question by Tom Rinaldi. Will Tiger have a target score tomorrow? He always does, but said it will be dependent upon course conditions.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 20, 2013
When will Tiger Woods' next major win be?
What Woods has done exceptionally well is avoid the big number—he hasn't made worse than bogey all week long.
Since he has far superior winning experience than the majority of his closest competitors, he's not as liable to have a blowup hole that costs him the championship.
The winning total should be at level-par or so, and there's no one better at grinding with that score as the target than Tiger Woods.
In projecting his score, giving him at least that seems fair, but given his form and how overdue he is at the majors, he should be able to produce some of his past magic. Thus, let's give him another shot, which puts him at a one-under 70.
Unless anyone catches him, or Westwood or Mahan outplays him, Woods may very well be sipping from the Claret Jug on Sunday evening as the champion golfer of the year.
Prediction: One eagle, two birdies, three bogeys and a round of one-under 70.
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