Tiger Woods is one victory away from breaking the PGA Tour record for career victories.
He’ll have a lot of work to do to secure the mark at one of his favorite courses after a hot start on Saturday gave way to struggles on the back nine at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods started his third round strong en route to shooting a 3-under 69 at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He hit four birdies on the front nine, but his bogey on 11 was his only score other than par on the back.
Rahm leads, Rory lurks
Woods has a three-day total of 7-under 209 and trails leader Jon Rahm (-12) by five strokes at the conclusion of Saturday’s play.
Ryan Palmer sits in second place at 11-under par, while Rory McIlroy finished with three birdies on the final seven holes to lead a group of four players in a third-place tie at 9-under.
“I am gonna have to shoot a pretty good round tomorrow,” Woods said. “I have my work cut out for me. I have to go out and post a number. Hopefully, it will be good enough.”
Saturday’s round was delayed two hours due to fog. Once the fog lifted, Woods clearly had his game on as he made a move on the front nine. He just couldn’t keep the momentum on the back.
Much better start on Saturday
On Friday, Woods four-putted No. 1 on the South Course for a double bogey and had to fight his way to a 1-under 71. On Saturday, he birdied the par-4 first hole by sinking a putt from just inside 15 feet after hitting his tee shot into a bunker.
After settling for par on the second hole, Woods sank another birdie putt on the third to get to 6 under pull within four of second-round leader Ryan Palmer, who had yet to tee off.
Things nearly went awry at the par-4 fourth. After flubbing a chip shot from just off the green, Woods chipped in his next shot to save par and keep his momentum.
Woods birdied the sixth by sinking a putt from just inside 15 feet to get to 3 under on his round and move into a tie for fourth.
Woods added a birdie on the ninth after hitting his approach shot from 100 yards to about three feet and sank the birdie putt to finish at 4-under 32 on the front nine.
Lost momentum on the back nine
After shooting 4-under 32 on the front — four birdies, no bogeys — Woods recorded his first bogey of the day at the par-3 11th. A mishit off the tee left him a long birdie attempt from more than 60 feet, and he three-putted to fall back to 3 under on the day and 7 under on the tournament.
And all of Woods’ momentum seemed to be lost.
Woods settled for pars on the next six holes, not really giving himself great birdie chances, and was looking for anything at the par-5 18th. But he hit his drive way left and had to scramble to make a 15-foot par-saving putt.
“I didn’t make any birdies coming home,” Woods said. “[That par putt] salvaged the round a bit.”
Stars in contention
While Woods is a long shot, some familiar names remain in striking distance at Torrey Pines.
McIlroy shot 5-under 67 on Saturday and is two strokes back of the lead.
Tony Finau had a seesaw day on the course en route to a 4-under 68 to sit at 8-under heading into Sunday. He scored six birdies and a pair of bogeys to remain in contention.
And a shoutout to Tyler McCumber, one of Woods’ playing partners on Saturday. Playing alongside Woods is never easy, but McCumber kept his cool and fired his second-straight 4-under 68 — the low round of the threesome. Chris Baker, the other player in the group, shot 2-over 74.
Tiger knows how to win here
Woods has been winning titles at Torrey Pines since he was a teenager and has won the Farmers Insurance Open seven times, including four in a row from 2005-08. He last won the event in 2013. And he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
He could add to that total on Sunday, which would move him ahead of Sam Snead in all-time PGA Tour victories. Earlier in the week, Woods said he was not thinking about No. 83.
Via the AP:
“Shot by shot got me to 82,” said Woods, who tied Sam Snead’s record with a wire-to-wire win at the Zozo Championship in Japan in late October. “It’s one of those things where it’s just a process. It’s a marathon. It’s four days. It’s a long haul. Just trying to be there at the end and you never know what happens at the end.”
If he doesn’t get it done Sunday, Woods is next scheduled to compete in the Genesis Invitational, where he’s the tournament host, at Riviera from Feb. 13-16. He’s skipping next week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am the following week.
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