It was moving day in Akron, but Tiger Woods drifted in the wrong direction.
With a listless third-round 73 at Firestone Country Club, Woods tumbled down the leaderboard and out of contention at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, an event he has won a record eight times. His three-over showing, low-lighted by four bogeys and just one birdie, dropped Woods from T-10 when play began into also-ran range, 11 shots off the pace set by Justin Thomas.
“I’m fine. I just played like crap,” Woods said after the round. “I just feel like I really couldn’t turn it around today. Just felt off. I had a little bit of a pull, a little bit of a block, a little here, a little there. Just wasn’t as sharp as I needed to be, especially with everyone making a bunch of birdies. I needed to go get it today and I didn’t do it.”
As he stepped to the first, high hopes swirled around him, and not just because weekend golf for Woods at Firestone has so often doubled as a victory march. Saturdays have also been especially kind to Tiger of late; he has the lowest third-round scoring average on Tour this year.
But a charge was not to be.
On a course that welcomes fast starts, Woods stalled out of the gates and never got it going. From the fairway on the vulnerable par-four first hole, he spun a wedge off the green and settled for par as his playing partner, Marc Leishman, drained a ho-hum birdie. On the reachable par-five second, Woods hooded his driver into the trees: another scraggly par as Leishman dived another birdie deeper into the red.
There was more of that to come, with little cause for fist-pumps but plenty of head-shakes and muttering from Tiger. Sweat beaded on his brow. He was working hard, but it wasn’t working. He missed half his fairways, hit a stingy nine greens in regulation and no magic in his short game could make things right. He notched two bogeys before converting his first birdie on the par-three 12th, then followed that bright moment by heading to the next tee and hopping glumly on a two-hole bogey train.
As Tiger idled, other bombers motored on, among them Rory McIlroy, whose three-under 67 left him tied for second with Ian Poulter, three shots back of Thomas at minus 14.
Others in the hunt include Leishman, at 9-under, and his fellow Aussie, Jason Day, at 10-under, but not Woods, whose frustrating day came fittingly to a close when his pin-seeking approach on 18 rattled off the flagstick and caromed farther from the cup than it deserved. What shoulda-coulda been a birdie became an unhelpful par.
Aside from being moving day, Saturday also marked the 5th anniversary of Woods’ last Tour victory, right here at Firestone in 2013.
It was the 79th win of his career. His 80th will have to wait at least another week.