Tiger WatchDecember 6, 2019

Tiger Woods shoots third-round 67 at Hero, sits two off the lead

Hero World Challenge - Round Three
Mike EhrmannNASSAU, BAHAMAS - DECEMBER 06: Tiger Woods of the United States walks off the 16th tee during the third round of the Hero World Challenge on December 06, 2019 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas — On Saturday at around 3 p.m., after the final putt of the Hero World Challenge drops, Tiger Woods will put his captain's hat on. He'll reprioritize his organizational duties and begin to shepherd his United States team through its 23-hour journey to Australia for the Presidents Cup.

Until then, it's all business. Business and birdies. The other stuff can wait. There's a golf tournament for the taking.

Woods followed up Thursday's 66 with a five-under 67 on Friday. His 11-under total through 54 holes puts him in a tie for third entering the final round, two strokes behind Gary Woodland.

"I'm gonna have to make some birdies again tomorrow," Woods said. "The forecast will be about the same as it was today. Same kind of wind, same basic direction. The golf course can be had. … I know I shot 67, but I left a few out there today.

"I missed a bunch of putts. In order to win tomorrow, I'm going to have to make my share."

Whereas Thursday's round was an exhibition of scoring prowess, Woods missed a number of makable birdie putts on Friday. To still shoot 67 speaks to how well Woods struck the ball. He hit 12 of Albany's 13 generous fairways—with the only miss coming by about two yards on the first hole—and found 14 of 18 greens.

"My swing feels good," Woods said. "Since I've come back from my little knee procedure, I've swung the club well. I hit it well in Japan. I'm hitting it well here."

Woods has a realistic chance to win his second consecutive tournament since a having his surgery on his knee in August. It's a remarkable turnaround from the end of 2018-'19 PGA Tour season, when he struggled with his swing and failed to qualify for the Tour Championship.

Woods, a five-time Hero champion, started the day six strokes back of Woodland and had good looks at birdie on his first two holes, but burned the edges on both efforts. The first of his six birdies came at the par-5 third, where Woods two-putted after an impressive long-iron shot found the front of the green. He added another birdie at the par-5 sixth before making his lone bogey of his day on the eighth. Woods tried to muscle a 7-iron into that par 3 but came up short, then faced a difficult chip and couldn't get up and down.

On the par-5 ninth, Woods failed to get up and down for birdie, at which point his round appeared to have stalled. But he found his form once more on the back nine, where he has had the majority of his success this week. Birdies at 11, 14 and 15 got him to nine under for the tournament—he is now 12 under on the week on the five-hole stretch from 11-15—and was two back of the lead when he stood on the 18th tee.

The home hole at Albany has given Woods significant trouble in years past—he double-bogeyed it Wednesday and said Thursday that it simply doesn't fit his eye. But the hole played downwind on Friday, allowing Woods to club down to a 3-wood and find the fairway. From there, he needed only a half sand wedge, the ball checking up to seven feet. His putt was dead center for a closing birdie.

Woods now finds himself in a peculiar position: trying to beat his 10 U.S. Presidents Cup teammates who are teeing it up this week—including Justin Thomas, who played with Woods and matched his 67. The two will play together again on Saturday in the penultimate pairing.

"The easy part is, I just have to focus on going out there and making birdies," Woods said. "That's easy. I can put all my energy and all my effort into that. And then, I have 23 hours on a plane to recover. That will be fine."


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