Tiger Woods played his way out of contention at the Open Championship with a terrible second round, and the 14-time major winner's downward spiral continued Saturday at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Woods shot a one-over 73 to put him at three over for the tournament. He was well off the pace in a tie for 58th place when his round came to an end. He wasn't going to be in contention unless he laid down an out-of-this-world score in the third round, but his performance proved disappointing.
The manner in which he started the third round suggested that he might turn in a very low score. Unfortunately, things unraveled from there.
Tiger will simply be playing for pride from here on out, but here is a look at the British Open leaderboard as it currently stands from Hoylake, England:
Woods converted just one birdie during the second round, but he was much better in that regard Saturday. His improvement in that area was nullified by a couple terrible holes, however. Here is a full breakdown of how he fared in the form of his third-round scorecard:
|Tiger Woods' Day 3 Back Nine Scorecard (Started on Back)|
|Tiger Woods' Day 3 Front Nine Scorecard (Ended on Front)|
Tiger's day started on the back nine, which may have been advantageous considering his struggles on the front nine in the first round. Woods shot three over on the first two holes Friday and was never able to recover. His third round got off to an ideal start, though.
After being wildly inaccurate with his driver in the second round, Woods made it clear that Saturday was a new day with a perfect opening drive, per Golf Channel.com's Tiger Tracker:
Woods went on to birdie both the 10th and 11th holes. He was playing with confidence and looked like a totally different golfer than the one who took the course in the second round.
Woods acknowledged that his inability to convert birdie chances Friday contributed heavily to his nightmarish second round, per Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com.
"I got off to a terrible start again," Woods said. "I had some opportunities to make some birdies and I just never did. I had myself in good position to make birdies and I just didn't do it."
ESPN's Trey Wingo was among those impressed by Woods' start Saturday, though, as everything seemed to be clicking initially:
Woods looked so good to start the round that Porter joked that a historic day could be in the offing:
Some might argue that there was less pressure on Tiger to perform after tumbling down the leaderboard, but it isn't as if he was a forgotten man. As seen in this photo courtesy of Golf.com's Stephanie Wei, a massive gallery followed Woods despite the fact that Rory McIlroy started at the same time on the front nine:
Woods went on to par the 12th, 13th and 14th holes before he ran into his first bit of trouble. After that, he bogeyed the par-three 15th, which could have led to a reverse in fortunes. He quickly righted the ship, though, with a birdie on the 16th.
Tiger made the turn at two-under for the day and even par for the tournament, but his Achilles' heel lurked in the form of the front nine.
Woods seemed to have put the first two rounds behind him initially, though, when he birdied No. 1 for the first time this tournament. Robert Lusetich of FoxSports.com speculated that starting on the back nine may have helped Tiger conquer the first hole from a mental perspective:
Tiger appeared poised to go on a tear and continue moving up the leaderboard, but the British Open is known for its volatility.
The same can be said for Woods in recent years, and that was evident on the second hole. Tiger carded a disappointing six on the par-four second, which was just the latest in a long line of disappointments on that particular hole, per Tiger Tracker:
According to Mike O'Malley of Golf Digest, the first two holes are chiefly responsible for Woods' pedestrian positioning in the standings this week:
Woods posted four straight pars after that until disaster struck on the seventh hole. Tiger triple bogeyed the 17th hole in the second round and repeated that unwanted feat on the seventh Saturday.
Per Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports, a lost ball off the tee was chiefly responsible for Tiger carding a seven:
That triple destroyed Woods' hopes of having a bounce-back round and obliterated any illusions of a finish near the top of the leaderboard. Big numbers on a few holes have plagued Woods this week, but Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press accurately pointed out that Tiger hasn't played well enough even without factoring those holes in:
Woods did manage a birdie on his final hole of the day, but that triple bogey had already taken the air out of his round. Tiger finished with a 73, which extended a very un-Tiger-like streak at majors, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
Since Woods entered the third round at two over for the tournament, one can only assume that his mentality was to finish with two strong rounds to gain momentum leading up to the PGA Championship. That potential plan obviously didn't get off to a good start.
Tiger still has an opportunity to salvage things with a solid final round, but the damage has already been done. The tournament will be viewed as a failure for him no matter what he does Sunday, which is disappointing considering how good he looked in the first round.
The big challenge for Woods at this point is to ignore the talk surrounding him and focus on closing his British Open strong. He would really benefit from finishing on a high note, as he needs some form of confidence with the year's final major approaching in a few weeks.
Perhaps expectations have been too high for Woods since returning from injury, but that is the nature of the beast when it comes to a legendary golfer like Tiger.
There is no question that the sport is better and more exciting when Woods is in contention, but his Open Championship form has been ordinary at best.
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