Tiger rallies from poor start amid high winds
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Tiger Woods survived a poor start and gale-force winds to post an even-par 72, leaving him only a shot behind leader Rory McIlroy and two others going into the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic. On a day when winds reached 45 kph (28 mph) and dusty conditions played havoc with the leaderboard, Woods showed an uncanny ability to repeatedly come back. The former No. 1-ranked American ended the third round with an overall total of 7-under 209, behind second round leader McIlroy (75), Denmark’s Anders Hansen (71) and South Africa’s Thomas Aiken (74) who are all on 8-under 208. He sits in a five-way tie for fourth.
Woods shouldn’t even be in contention going into Sunday. But the tough conditions took their toll on most of the top players, with McIlroy finishing at 3 over and Sergio Garcia - who was eight shots ahead of Woods after nine holes - finishing at 3-over and tied with Woods and five other players. About two-thirds of the field didn’t break par.
“The fact I was able to battle from 4 over par and put myself with a chance going into tomorrow, I’m proud of that,’’ said Woods, who had an eagle and four birdies but also four bogeys and a double bogey. “Hopefully I can build on that.’’
Woods started badly with bogeys on the first two holes, mostly due to errant drives that went well left of the fairway. He pulled a shot back on the third with a birdie. But he bogeyed the eighth and ended up with a double bogey on the ninth after his approach shot got caught up in the wind, dropped just short of the green and rolled in the water.
But at the turn, Woods showed some of his trademark magic. He responded with an eagle on the 10th, chipping in from 35 feet. He followed that up with a birdie that seemed to settle him down. But after running off several pars, his putting woes returned with a bogey on No. 16 - prompting Woods to swear before ending with “Come on Tiger.’’
The former top-ranked player pulled out all the stops on 17, driving to back edge the green on the 359-yard hole. But then his chip ran past the hole and he missed an easy birdie putt.
That left him the 18th where he played it cautiously, choosing to lay up rather than drive the green. It paid off when he managed to curl in a 30-foot putt, prompting him to pump his fist as the crowd cheered wildly.
Woods is seeking his first tournament victory in more than a year.
McIlroy, who won his only European Tour event here in 2009, also had a dreadful start. He had three straight bogeys to hand the lead to Garcia, including a drive on the second that landed in a sandy scrub and one on the third that ended in the bunker.
Like Woods, McIlroy was able to turn his game around on the back nine with a birdie and a string of pars.
“There’s been a few rounds that I let get away from me ... and I didn’t let that happen today which was a positive sign,’’ McIlroy said. “And I’m still, you know in the lead, tied for the lead ... I’m still in there with a great chance. It’s just very bunched at the minute and now a lot of guys have a chance to win.’’