For 20 minutes on a warm Saturday afternoon at the British Open, Tiger Woods’ name was back atop a leaderboard at a major championship and Carnoustie was buzzing.
Not much in golf compares with Woods on a charge. So when he rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 9, stiffed an approach inside two feet for birdie at No. 10, and nearly drove onto the green to set up a tap-in birdie at No. 11, there was a feeling something special was happening.
Then three holes later, Woods two-putted for birdie at No. 14 and there he was, right at the top of the giant yellow leaderboards dotted all around Carnoustie, tied for the lead with five players at 6 under.
“It would be … better on Sunday,” Woods said after his 5-under 66 to get back into the mix. “But I’m right there.”
A bogey at the par-3 16th stalled the momentum, and Woods had to scramble for a par at the last after landing his drive on the bank of the Barry Burn and into the deep rough.
His 66 wasn’t even the best of the day — Justin Rose shot 64, Jordan Spieth and Francesco Molinari 65s — but it likely was what fans were talking about when they left the course. It left Woods tied for sixth place on 5-under overall, four shots off the lead and in contention for his first major in 10 years.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve felt like this,” Woods said.
The sun was peeking out of the clouds and Woods was walking up the first fairway when one spectator, a beer in his hand, shouted: “Go on Tiger, we got your back.”
It certainly felt that way when the deep gallery surrounding the first green roared their approval at Woods holing a 10-foot putt for par, after he sent his approach left of the green.
It was one of the few times Woods was out of position all afternoon in a round where he hit driver six times, compared with three times in the second round and once on Thursday.
“You’re the man, Tiger, everyone knows it,” shouted another spectator flanking the fairway on the sixth hole. And Woods’ playing partner sensed an aura around the 14-time major champion.
Woods was “back at the top of his game,” said Shaun Morris, who got Woods to sign four new gloves after the round and planned to give them to his friends back home in South Africa.
The last time Woods led or held a share of the lead at the end of a round at a major was in 2012, at the U.S. PGA Championship. On Saturday, it happened during a round, and only briefly.
Ian Poulter, who missed the cut, tweeted a screen-grab of the leaderboard with Woods’ name on top, and wrote: “I can’t say I’ve ever been so excited for Tiger Woods before.. If he can pull this off, it would be ‘stuff dreams are made of.’”
Woods will be in the third-to-last pairing, with Francesco Molinari.
“It certainly is possible,” Woods said. “I’ve shown that I’ve been there, close enough, with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to be fun.”
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
Source: Associated Press