Golf

Flu, lousy putting ail Tiger Woods

Watch as FOXSports.com's Robert Lusetich recaps Round 3 at the Memorial.
Watch as FOXSports.com's Robert Lusetich recaps Round 3 at the Memorial.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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DUBLIN, Ohio

Tiger Woods wore out one end of his towel on Saturday.

“I was blowing my nose an awful lot in the towel, so I don’t think (caddie) Joey (LaCava) is real happy about that,” said Woods, who’s come down with a nasty flu.

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He also wore out the middle of the clubface on his irons at the Memorial tournament, where he’s leading the field in greens hit in regulation, a statistic that once upon a time would’ve meant Woods was leading in a walk.

But what wore him out was a recalcitrant putter.

Misfiring on the greens was primarily responsible for a third-round 73 that’s left Woods in fourth place, four strokes behind leader Spencer Levin, going into Sunday’s final round.

“I certainly probably shot the highest score I could have shot today considering the way I hit it,” Woods said.

Woods missed seven putts between 7 and 15 feet on tricky, windswept greens at Muirfield Village.

He did make a 20-footer for birdie on the opening hole, but it came from off the green. After that, the longest putt Woods made was a 4 1/2-footer for bogey on the last hole.

“I had a difficult time adjusting to the pace today,” he said.

“I know they (the greens) are faster than what they were yesterday (Friday), but they just didn’t look that fast.”

Woods made four bogeys on his back nine, and each told the story of the pieces still missing from his game.

While he’s made giant strides in his tee game and is striking the long and mid irons crisply, the closer he gets to the green, the shakier he’s become.

Woods missed just three greens on the inward nine on Saturday but didn’t get up-and-down once.

For good measure, he threw in a three-putt, one of 32 strokes he took on the greens.

A man who regularly led the PGA Tour in scrambling — in 2008, he was almost seven-from-ten in saving par when missing a green — is now, at best, a mediocre chipper.

On the 10th hole, Woods found himself in front of the green with a straightforward, garden-variety chip shot. He hit it 15 feet past the hole. On the last — a slightly more demanding shot because of the elevated green — he sent his chip from short of the by 10 feet green.

Maybe because he’s under the weather, Woods didn’t seem angered by the short game malfunctions after his round.

He certainly didn’t act like a man who felt his chance at a 73rd PGA Tour victory — a win that would tie him, coincidentally, with the tournament host, Jack Nicklaus — had been lost.

“I’m only four back,” he said, “And out here, with these conditions — it’s supposed to be like this tomorrow again — anything can happen.

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“Four shots is definitely manageable around this golf course.

“A lot of guys are still in this ballgame.”

Woods said he wouldn’t be surprised if the winning score didn’t go lower than Levin’s third round 8-under-par.

“There’s so many demanding holes that anything can happen,” he said.

“For instance, (the par 3) 12 is a pretty prime example of that. You’re seeing the best players in the world make five and higher there this week.

“It’s not that hard a hole if the wind is not blowing, but when it’s gusting like this, it’s awfully difficult to hit the ball the right number.”

Woods double-bogeyed the 12th in the second round after sailing his tee shot long when he saw Freddie Couples come up in short and rinse his shot.

On Saturday, Woods watched playing partner Scott Stallings hit a seven iron into the middle of the lake and compensated by putting a seven iron into the back bunker.

From there, he had to play away from the hole to avoid finding the water as Rory McIlroy did in the first round, leading to a quadruple bogey for the Irishman.

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What Woods is going to need to do better, though, is give himself a chance on the par-fives.

In the first round, he went for all the par-fives in two shots and came away with three birdies.

Since then, he’s layed up seven of eight times and has made only two birdies.

Woods said the winds haven’t favored his preferred cut with the driver.

“But it is important to get it down there and given yourself a run at some of these par 5s because there’s very few birdie holes out there,” he said.

Perhaps Woods’ confidence stems from the fact that he plays well on Sundays at Jack’s place.

His final round scoring average at Muirfield Village is an ungodly 68.18, with just one over-par round.

And if he keeps hitting shots like he did out of the fairway bunker on the 17th, maybe the putts will start to fall.

Woods called the shot “tasty”, leading to the only smile during his post-round news conference.

“He hit a wedge over a 20-story building to 10 feet,” said Stallings.

“I almost took my phone out and Tweeted it.”

Tagged: Tiger Woods

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