ST. LOUIS — Tiger Woods charging up the leader board and into contention. It’s such a familiar feeling, like the movie you’ve seen 100 times but still stop to watch. You know the outcome, but you don’t care.
We expect the same when watching the Tiger Show, too. It’s understandable, because for so long the ending was the same: The hero standing there with the trophy.
Only this season -- his first full one in five years -- what we’ve watched has been a series of teases. And through three rounds of the PGA Championship, he is doing it again.
Woods began his marathon Saturday by stuffing a 70-yard wedge to six feet and rolling in a birdie on the par-5 eighth when the second round resumed at 7 a.m., after bad weather forced the stoppage of play the day before. Nearly three hours later, he polished off a 66 to get within six of the lead with 36 holes to play.
Then the action really picked up.
With the air heavy and hot, the afternoon crowds swelling, and the smell of grilled hamburgers wafting across a sunny, sweaty Bellerive Country Club, Woods rattled off five birdies in his first eight holes of the third round to climb within two. Here we go.
Or not. We’ve seen this before, too.
At the Honda Classic, he was only four back entering the weekend but faded down the finish. Then there was the runner-up at the Valspar, where he came up one stroke too many on the last hole on the last day. At Bay Hill, he made a late charge only to snipe one out of bounds with three holes to go. At Carnoustie, his name was atop the leader board with eight holes to go in the Open Championship, until it wasn’t, a couple of blunders costing him his first major in a decade and his first win anywhere in five years.
Saturday afternoon at Bellerive, the hero appeared to hit the wall, the hot start cooled by 10 straight pars to shoot another 66. A good round, sure, but it could have been so much more.
A missed birdie putt from just inside 20 feet on 11. Another from 15 feet on 12. Another from 14 feet on 13. A 10-footer on 14. All of them short.
What is this, Groundhog Day?
Then there was the par-5 17th. Needing some of that old magic, he hammered home a 4-iron from 243 yards to 18 feet. It was the easiest hole on the course, and making the eagle putt he face would have ultimately put him into a tie for second just two off the lead of Brooks Koepka.
Instead, he powered the putt through the break, the ball catching the lip and racing four feet by. Then he missed the one coming back, too.
“The greens were getting fuzzy,” Woods said. “They’re getting slow, and I didn’t hit the putts quite hard enough.”
The good news? There’s still another round, and he’s only four strokes off the lead. The bad news ? We’ve seen this movie before, too.
Of Woods’ 14 major victories, none were achieved coming from behind on the final day. He knows he needs a "low one" with a packed leaderboard going into Sunday, but his final-round scoring average is also a pedestrian 70.45, which ranks 73rd on tour.
“I'm tired,” the 42-year-old Woods conceded. “I am definitely tired. Twenty-nine holes, it’s not necessarily the physical, it’s this mentally grinding that’s hard for 29 holes in this heat. It was a long day.”
And it feels like a familiar ending.