USA TODAY Sports’ Larry Berger discusses what makes the 17th island green at TPC at Sawgrass a special hole.
USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods lived to see the weekend — barely.
Playing in The Players Championship for the first time since 2015, Woods went into Saturday’s round at 1-under-par, which was the cut line.
But he showed plenty of life during the third round on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, finishing with a 7-under 65, the best round of his career at The Players. His previous best of 66 was last done in 2000 and 2001.
Woods is now 8 under for the tournament, putting him in a five-way tie for eighth place seven strokes behind leader Webb Simpson, who tees off Saturday at 2:40 p.m. ET.
Hole 18 – Par 4
On his final hole of the day, Tiger blisters one down the center of the fairway. All in all, Woods was very good off the tee Saturday. Woods lines his second shot onto the green, where the ball rolls to the fringe but he’ll have a nice putt for birdie. And he pushed it just right, but tapped in for his fourth consecutive par, and sixth of the back nine.
Hole 17 – Par 3
On the most famous hole at TPC Sawgrass, Woods goes well over the hole to set up a long putt for birdie. He plays it safe, doesn’t worry about speed, and leaves it about 3 feet of the hole. Then he makes the putt for par. It would seem the course record of 9-under 63 is out of reach. -7 through 17 holes (-8 for the tournament).
Hole 16 – Par 5
Woods ends his two-hole skid of missing the fairway with a beautiful shot off the tee. Despite a great look on his second shot, Woods hooks the ball well left and it finds a bunker next to the green. The roller coaster shifts back upward after wedging out to the green, where he’ll have a nice chance at his first birdie since No. 12. And … he … holes it out! Oh man! It was in, then it wasn’t. And he taps in for par. -7 through 16 holes (-8 for the tournament).
It should be noted that Woods’ partner, Mackenzie Hughes has made three consecutive birdies and is now at 4 under for the day and 5 under for the tournament.
Hole 15 – Par 4
Another wide-right drive, and Tiger tosses his club on the backswing in disgust. Shooting from the bunker, Woods has a good out and actually gets onto the front of the green. His 35-foot birdie putt JUST misses right and he saves par, something that seemed unlikely after his shot off the tee. -7 through 15 holes (-8 for the tournament).
Elsewhere: Jordan Spieth put the finishing touches on a 8-under par round to head into Sunday’s final round at 7 under. Justin Thomas shot 4 under to improve to 5-under par for the tournament.
Hole 14 – Par 4
Woods strikes his drive well, but he misses the fairway for just the second time this round. The ball winds up in the rough, just right, much like the last two days. Woods punches it out and gets back on the fairway just in front of the green. Mind-set has to be just to save par at this point. Shot No. 3 is placed well short of the hole, and Woods will have a tricky putt for par. He gives it a good ride, but will have to tap in for bogey, his first of the day. -7 through 14 holes (-8 for the tournament).
Hole 13 – Par 3
Man, oh man. Woods hits his iron to within 15 feet of the pin and gets a rousing ovation from the gallery. His birdie putt, though, was just right of the hole and he tapped in for par. -8 through 13 holes (-9 for the tournament).
Hole 12 – Par 4
Woods had his first bad drive, slicing it right. Immediately after striking the ball he could be heard calling himself a donkey — only he didn’t use the word “donkey.” Shooting from about 40 yards from the hole and an obstructed view, Woods had a great chip that ran just past the hole and within 10 feet of another birdie opportunity. Count it! An eighth birdie in 12 holes. Think he found his game? -8 through 12 holes (-9 for the tournament).
Elsewhere: Jordan Spieth (through 14) and Martin Laird (through 12) have put together 4-under rounds thus far, while Justin Thomas (through 14) and Shane Lowry (through 11) are at 3 under. But no one is making as much noise as Tiger, who is now in a four-way tie for fifth place after starting the day in a tie for 68th. He’s six strokes behind Webb Simpson, who tees off at 2:40 p.m. ET at 15 under.
Hole 11 – Par 5
Woods drills his drive perfectly, right down the middle of the fairway. Ho-hum. He lifts his second shot over the hole, about 240 yards, to the green, where he’ll have a long putt for eagle. The difficult downhill putt runs a little long, but putts him within 5 feet for another birdie. And it’s … good! -7 through 11 holes (-8 for the tournament).
Hole 10 – Par 4
Woods uses an iron to cook his first shot down the left side of the fairway, about 150 yards from the hole. His second shot sticks on the green and he’ll be in good shape, about 35 feet away. He missed just right, running the putt about 3 feet passed the hole, and then makes his par putt. No harm, no foul. -6 through 10 holes (-7 for the tournament).
Thoughts at the turn
Unlike the first two rounds, everything is clicking for Tiger. He’s coming out of the tee box well, his approach shots have been nearly flawless and he’s taken 12 putts through nine holes. We’re seeing vintage Woods, who heads into the back nine in a tie for 11th place. His 30 on the front nine is his lowest nine-hole score of his career at The Players.
Hole 9 – Par 5
Will Woods’ mastery of this hole, which he eagled Thursday, continue? He mashes his drive down the fairway, just right but in a great spot. And, just like Thursday, he crushes his second shot. He’ll have a lengthy putt from the back of the green for eagle, but he’s set up nicely. The 40-foot putt is just left and about 2 feet from the cup. Easy tap-in for another birdie, and Woods stays on the prowl. -6 through 9 holes (-7 for the tournament).
Hole 8 – Par 3
Woods hits an iron to about 30 feet of the hole. He runs his first putt just a bit to the right, finishing about 3 feet from the cup, and then makes the putt for par. -5 through 8 holes (-6 for the tournament).
Hole 7 – Par 4
Woods drills his 3-wood right down the fairway of this 451-yard hole. He sticks his second shot behind the hole, about 5 feet away from the cup. Another birdie opportunity is within reach — and achieved! Woods has taken only eight putts through seven holes and is now in the top 20 on the leaderboard. -5 through 7 holes (-6 for the tournament).
Hole 6 – Par 4
After another solid tee shot, Woods makes his first real mistake of the day. He irons his second shot a little long and it rolls down off the back of the green and near a sprinkler, where he gets an official ruling on his placement. He makes a good putt in a difficult situation, getting the ball within 5 feet and then making the putt to save par. -4 through 6 holes (-5 for the tournament).
Elsewhere: Tiger is off to the best start among those currently on the course, but Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are also having good days. Both are at 2 under for the round, getting them to 3 under for the tournament.
Hole 5 – Par 4
Momentum seems to be building for Woods, who drives right down the middle of the fairway. His second shot gets him within 20 feet, where he nails he birdie putt. Tiger is feeling it! There’s still a long way to go to catch Webb Simpson, but he is taking baby steps on Moving Day. -4 through 5 holes (-5 for the tournament).
Hole 4 – Par 4
Woods hits an iron that finds the fairway. Each of his first four shots from the tee box have been nearly ideal. Speaking of ideal, Woods blasts his second shot within 10 feet of the hole, going over the water lining the front of the green. Another chance for birdie, and he makes it. Three birdies in four holes. -3 through 4 holes (-4 for the tournament).
Hole 3 – Par 3
This hole has been a mixed bag for Woods the first two days. He followed a Thursday bogey with a birdie Friday. His first shot finds the green about 20 feet away from the cup. He putts a touch too hard, but makes his second putt for par. -2 through 3 holes (-3 for the tournament).
Hole 2 – Par 5
Woods’ first shot gets into the rough, but he has a good look for his second shot. He nearly finds the green, but hits near the front-left bunker. His third shot is a perfect chip to about 5 feet, where he’ll have a chance for a birdie-birdie start. And it’s good. Two holes, two birdies. Things are looking up. -2 through 2 holes (-3 for the tournament).
Hole 1 – Par 4
Good morning! They’re underway at sunny TPC Sawgrass as Woods and Hughes are the sixth pair to get going. Woods has gone par-par on this 423-yard hole in the first two rounds. Woods drives his first shot down the middle of the fairway, setting up a clean wedge to the green, about 15-20 feet short. He drains the putt for birdie. Nice start to Round 3. -1 through 1 hole (-2 for the tournament).
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