PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Neither Tiger Woods nor Kevin Na was in peak form on Saturday at the Players, but that didn’t mean the two couldn’t share a laugh. So that’s exactly what they did on one of golf’s biggest stages: TPC Sawgrass’s 17th hole.
Woods had struggled out of the gate in the third round, slipping to four over par for his round through 10 holes. But he was still beating his playing partner by four strokes at that point; Na had made six bogeys and a double through 10. Things didn’t turn around for the pairing until No. 16, where Woods made birdie and Na canned a 20-footer for eagle.
That loosened up the pairing for 17. TPC Sawgrass’s iconic hole served as the stage for a Tiger Tragedy on Friday, but a comedy on Saturday. Na hit his approach to three feet; Woods hit his even closer. That’s when things really got good. Na rolled his putt slowly towards the hole, but was so confident about the line it was on that he reached down to grab it, nearly picking up the ball before it fell to the bottom of the cup.
Woods, clearly entertained, grinned, then cracked up into laughter. Then he tried to mimic Na’s effort with his own putt, holing the birdie try and grabbing it as quickly as possible.
The birdie (and subsequent par save on 18) added up to an even-par 72 for Woods, while Na shot 78 and will miss the third-round cut (to top 70 and ties) despite the late heroics. “We kind of fought back a little bit,” Woods said. “I got it back to even par. I thought that was a good goal after being 3-over through 8 and just fought hard.”
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Woods was still in good spirits about the moment after the round. “Kevin, he almost picked the ball out of the hole before it even got there,” he said. “And I had pretty much a kick-in, so I tried to emulate him as best I possibly could, meanwhile still trying to make the putt. I got to make the putt first, so I thought we had a good laugh about it.”