Lusetich: For one day, at least, Tiger flashes old form

Tiger Woods had 12 one-putts and eight birdie putts totaling 108 feet in the third round Saturday.

Andrew Weber/Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports


There’s an electricity only Tiger Woods can give a golf tournament.

Other players can shoot low numbers, but nothing ignites galleries like a Woods charge up the leaderboard.

I was reminded — and, yes, these days my memory needs jogging when it comes to the stirring deeds of the Tiger of Old — of this on a beautiful Saturday in Miami, when Woods not only took apart Donald Trump’s beefy redesigned Doral with what, some joked, should be a new-course record 6-under 66, but captured imaginations along the way.

He even broke out a series of fist pumps to celebrate birdie putts, like it was back in the day.

How ironic that just a day before, Woods — fresh off a WD at last week’s Honda Classic — had been just an old Tiger, an afterthought at the Cadillac Championship, languishing in a tie for 53rd in a 68-man field.

But after a vintage eight birdies against two bogeys performance, Woods will start Sunday with only three players ahead of him.

At 1-under after shooting the week’s lowest score on the beefed up Blue Monster, Woods trailed Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan by a single shot and leader Patrick Reed by three.

He may not win this tournament — and defend his title — but I have the feeling this round will outlive the result.

It was the sort of performance that served to remind everyone — and perhaps even Woods himself — that a lackluster start to the season can very quickly be rendered meaningless.

And that’s important with the Masters just a month away.

"As far as most complete round (of the year), absolutely," Woods said afterward. "I hit the ball a lot better than I did at Honda last Saturday (when he shot a 5-under 65). This was certainly a lot better round."

Woods hit only eight fairways, but importantly wasn’€™t in big trouble off the tee. Indeed, he seems more bent over at address, and the new posture has helped his driving. His drive on the Doral’s notorious closing hole was a thing of beauty, 325 yards right down the middle.

Given the water on the left, it was, a longtime observer noted, the bravest swing he’s seen Woods make in a long time.

The iron play was solid — he hit 14 greens — but the standout feature of the round came on the greens.

Woods needed just 25 putts and, more to the point, rolled in 12 one-putts. His eight birdie putts totaled 108 feet, and that is vintage Woods.

"€œI got my speed right,"€ he said.

Some will say that the reason he scored well was that he made everything he looked at, but isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what he did for 13 years?

Of course, he got more than just his speed right, but as is always the case with Woods, he doesn’t talk up good rounds.

"€œIt was nice to get back in the tournament again,"€ he said, matter of factly.

He did commend himself for having "held it together"€ on Friday, when he had to play 26 holes with a back that still was bothering him and in gusting 30 mph winds that wreaked havoc on the field.

"€œI figured, ‘€˜Hey, I’m only six back, that’s definitely doable, especially with the conditions and how difficult this golf course is playing,’"€ he said of his mindset after two rounds.

"€œIf I just get back to even par for the tournament, I’ll be right there and I did one better."

His back, he said, wasn’t completely healed, but neither was it hindering him.

"I was pretty sore last night, but as I said, treatment every day, and my therapists are doing a fantastic job of get me out here and playing,"€ he said. "€œI hit it good today. I felt like my swing is coming around, which is nice. I just need to get healthy enough to where I can put the club in that position.

"When I feel good, I can put it there. It’s nice."

Nicer, no doubt, if he can do it two days in a row.