On a windy day, Charley Hoffman held on to his lead as he carded two-under 70, to move to 14-under 202 while Tiger Woods virtually crashed out of reckoning as he returned three over 75 round and slipped to tied 10th place in 18 players field at the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club on Saturday.
Charley Hoffman’s 70 was also the best card of the day and the World number 26 in the process took big five-shot lead over his nearest rivals Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose while going into the final round.
Tiger Woods however struggled to stay afloat. He hit 7 of 13 fairways and 9 of 18 greens as he dropped five strokes to end the with a score of 75 which left him, 10 strokes behind leader Charley Hoffman in this 18-player event.
First day leader Tommy Fleetwood (74), dropped to Tied-5th alongside world number 23 Patrick Reed (71) who moved up from Tied 10 to Tied -5, Rickie Fowler (72), Matt Kuchar (72) and champion Hideki Matsuyama (72).
It was not that only the 14-time major champion struggled even World No. 1 Dustin Johnson shot 76. Henrik Stenson shot 77. And there were eight players who did not break par. The wind at 20 miles per hour at times was at its strongest this week as only two players carded 70 each ~ Hoffman and Daniel Berger ~ while three others Rose, Molinari and Reed were under par with 71 each.
Woods, salvaged his round to a small extend on his back nine when he hit birdies on 14th and 17th. The five-time winner of this competition was hoping to get into contention but it all went up in a smoke as, he was 4-over in the first seven holes. He added a fifth bogey on 10th and was birdie-less till he arrived at the 14th.
“It’s ridiculous it took me 14 holes to make a birdie,” Woods said. “At that time, I’d already played four par 5s and nothing happened. Just one of those days. Anything I did right ended up in a bad spot, and then everything I did wrong, it was really bad,” he said.
Hoffman also had his share of troubles. But he did manage to find his way back towards the close just as he did on Friday, when he rounded off his 63 with a series of five birdies in last five holes. The leader who opened with a bogey before knocking in back-to-back birdies on second and third turned in one-under 35. His big trouble came on 10th, when his tee shot went far right into the bushes on a sand dune right of the fairway. He took a penalty drop onto a sandy path and wound up with a double bogey that seemed to open the door just that little bit. But he quickly shut it back with three birdies over his last five holes, including the 18th hole for the second straight day. That put him at 14-under 202.
“I got lucky on some tee balls that didn’t find the bushes and stayed in the sandy areas and I was able to sort of scrap it around,” Hoffman said.
“I’m going to have to handle my nerves a little better than I did today,” said Hoffman.
After 69-68 on first two days, there were enhanced expectations, so the 75 came as a blow. But Woods saw a silver lining in the fact that he was hitting the ball well and his back held up and felt strong.
Woods began his round by giving a hug to his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, who flew over from Florida.
He blistered a 3-wood from 278 yards into the wind and saw it run through the green into a tough lie. His chip didn’t reach the green. His next chip ran 6 feet by the hole and he missed the par putt.
He bogeyed the next par 5 when he didn’t play for a flyer out of the rough, went well long and was left in such a tough spot that he played away from the flag and his pitch went through the green to the fringe.
Tiger offered no excuse for his poor third round saying, “That’s just golf. You are always going to face adversity. I’m just frustrated I couldn’t get it turned around on the easier holes. I birdied 14, but I had played four par-5s and hadn’t made a birdie yet. That’s not very good.”
The former world number 1 attempted to take the longer view of his situation, returning to competition after a fourth back surgery and a lengthy layoff. “It’s nice being part of the fight again,” Woods said. “Get out there and fight against the golf course, fight against the guys. That’s fun. I just haven’t done it a lot in the last few years.”