MEDINAH, Ill. — Apparently, Tiger Woods will not go gentle into that good offseason.
The reigning Masters champion, trying to claw his way to one of the 30 berths in next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, gave himself a chance to defend his title at East Lake Golf Club by carding a bogey-free five-under-par 67 Saturday in the third round of the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club.
The clean card was his first of the year, and, coincidentally, his first since a four-under 66 in the third round of last year’s BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club outside Philadelphia.
“Basically, the only difference between today and the last couple of days, I was able to clean up the card. I didn't have any stupid mistakes where I made bogey from bad spots or from easy spots,” said Woods, who was six for six in scrambling to complement another solid day off the tee. “I converted a nice up and down on five. I did the little things that was able to keep the momentum going and made a couple putts here and there.”
Woods, 43, not only played his best round of the tournament, but he appeared to be feeling the best he has all week. Yes, they’re related. He perhaps is finding the form and the path of his swing that proved so reliable at Augusta National Golf Club when he won his fifth Masters title. That swing also allowed him to play with more mobility and less pain earlier in the season.
The first two rounds this week, when he shot a pair of 71s on Medinah’s No. 3 Course, were tantamount to practice rounds considering he hadn’t made a full swing between the time he withdrew last Friday from the Northern Trust with an oblique strain and Wednesday's pro-am here.
“Things I'm working on in my game definitely make me feel a little bit better,” he said. “But it's just one of those things where some days I feel better than others, but also, then again, it's what I do with the golf club, too. Able to swing the club properly. Body feels better.”
For a second straight day, Woods took care of the par-5 holes, scoring birdies on three of the four. They were sandwiched between an eight-foot birdie putt at the long par-4 fourth hole and a 27-footer that found the cup for his final birdie at another brute, the 476-yard par-4 16th.
He hit 10 of 14 fairways and needed just 27 putts. Good numbers.
Likely he’ll need a better number on Sunday than 67 to climb into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and advance to the season finale. He entered the week 38th. He stood 41st after Saturday’s confidence builder. He knew what he needed to do, and he made that first step.
“I figured I [was] going to have to do something in mid-60s for two straight days there. Left myself pretty far behind after the first two rounds,” he said. “At least, I've got a shot at it.”
Did he have a number in mind? Why, yes, he did.
“I shoot 60, it should be right,” he said, grinning.