In the lead for the first time all year, Tiger Woods got the same result as his last time atop the leaderboard.
He couldn’t break par.
Woods bogeyed his first three holes Saturday in the Australian Open, and it didn’t get much better from there. He managed only two birdies on a good day for scoring, shot 3-over 75 and went from a one-shot lead to six shots behind John Senden.
It was only the third time since Woods’ last win two years ago that he had at least a share of the lead after a round. And it was the third time he was over par.
This round made him a long shot to end the longest drought of his career. Only once has he won a tournament when trailing by six shots or more going into the final round, and that was nearly 14 years ago in Thailand.
Senden, who won the Australian Open five years ago at Royal Sydney, birdied his last two holes to finish off a 9-under 63, giving him a one-shot lead over Jason Day going into Sunday at The Lakes.
Day celebrated his 24th birthday with a 68, giving him a shot at winning in his first trip home to Australia in nearly five years.
Greg Chalmers had a 67 and was two shots behind, followed by Nick O’Hern (66) and Nick Watney (68), one of eight Americans who came to the Australian Open to get ready for the Presidents Cup next week at Royal Melbourne.
“I just got off to an awful start,” Woods said. “The round should have been an easy 71, no problem. I played the par 5s bad, I didn’t take care of 13. But if I take care of the par 5s and make a couple of putts, it’s a 1 or 2 under round. But I made nothing today.”
In the lead for the first time since the final round of the Chevron World Challenge last year, it didn’t take long for him to start chasing.
Woods hit two good shots, but the approach was a yard long and tumbled off the side of the green to leave him a tough chip that he conservatively put 15 feet by the hole. Then came an approach from the adjacent fairway at No. 2 that went over the back of the green and left another challenging pitch that he put 30 feet by the hole.
The third bogey came from a poor pitch from short of the third hole that ran 15 feet long.
Woods followed with a 7-foot birdie on the fourth, but settled into a routine of fairways, greens and two-putt pars that on this day caused him to lose ground with the leaders.
Scoring is better on the back nine, but that’s where Woods fell apart.
After missing a short birdie on the 10th, he hooked his drive on No. 11 that rattled around a portable toilet and settled under a pine. Looking for a way out, Woods said to photographers crowded by his line, “Can you get the hell out of the way?”
There wasn’t noticeable anger in his voice, but it showed his frustration in the round. He chipped from under the tree, through a patch of sand and next to a crushed beer can where the gallery had been sitting. Then, he hooked a fairway metal into the gallery, pitched on to about 45 feet and settled for bogey.
That was followed by a pulled iron shot into a bunker on No. 12 for another bogey, and his luck got worse on the 13th when he tried to drive the green, and his flop shot went just long enough that it sat atop a hill over the green instead of running back down the slope within easy birdie range.
Woods closed with a 73 at the Chevron World Challenge last year, losing a four-shot lead to Graeme McDowell, who beat him in a playoff. Before that, Woods was tied with Vaughn Taylor in the opening round of The Barclays in 2010, then shot 73 in the second round.
Asked if he were disappointed, Woods replied, “Well, 75s are never exciting.”
He wasn’t giving up on his chances to win for the first time since the Australian Masters two years ago in Melbourne.
“I need to play good on that front nine. Anything can happen on the back nine,” Woods said. “If I can just play a good, solid front nine and get things going on the back nine, they have some easy holes on the back nine. If I can shoot some low scores, I’ll be right there.”
Senden was the odd man out when International captain Greg Norman made his two picks for the Presidents Cup. He went with Aaron Baddeley, based on his play in the Tour Championship.
Senden still put himself in position to make this a great trip home.
“Today was moving day and there is a long way to go,” he said. “Shooting 9 under, you don’t do that very often and you have to take it when you can get it and put yourself in a good spot.”
Source: Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press