CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — The clock had been turned back. The fans had been turned loose. The name on the top of the leader board was wonderfully familiar, that of the man golf people say moves the needle — Tiger Woods.
Yes, Tiger Woods, 43, was tied for first in the 147th British Open at Carnoustie. He didn’t stay there, but his presence in that position seemed to be the jolt that the tournament, and the sport, had been lacking.
Woods started the third round at even par, tied for 29th. Saturday is known as “moving day” on the golf tours, and Tiger certainly moved. He birdied the fourth hole, then the sixth and the ninth for a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine. But it didn’t stop there. Birdies at 10, 11 and 14, and he was 6-under with a share of first place.
He made his only bogey on the monster 248-yard, par-3 16th (Jack Nicklaus couldn’t hit the green there in a high wind in the 1968 Open). Woods finished with a 5-under 66 for a 54-hole score of 208, 5-under for the tournament and tied for sixth heading to the final round.
“That was good,” were Woods’ first words after the round. Then he repeated himself. “That was good. I played well today. I really did. I really didn’t feel I made a bad swing until 18.”
And even on that hole, with the famous Barry Burn snaking in and about the fairway and ruining many a round — “There’s no place to hide,” said 2007 Open champ Padraig Harrington — Woods got a break. The ball stopped short of the water. He chipped from the rough toward the green, then chipped to within 3 feet and made the par putt.
“That was big for me,” Woods said, “just not to finish with two bogeys the last three holes playing as well as I did.”
Woods has won the Open three times, in 2000 and 2005 at St. Andrews and in 2006 at Hoylake, Royal Liverpool. This was the first time he had been in the lead at the Open in 12 years. He didn’t even enter in 2016 or 2017 because of his injured back.
“I didn’t know I was tied for the lead,” Woods said. “I know I was within one. But I was right there. I didn’t want to let those guys get too far out of reach.”
They didn’t. Woods who said at the beginning of the week that of the four majors, because of his age, because he now doesn’t hit it as far as the younger players, the British would be his best chance for a victory. The ball rolls long distances on the hard links fairways.
Asked if being tied for the lead had meaning, Woods said: “It would be better on Sunday. But I’m right there. I got a chance, which is great.”
He is four back of leaders Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, who are at 9-under 204. Woods thinks they can be overcome.
“It’s certainly possible,” Woods said.
He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open and hasn’t won anywhere since 20013.
“I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year,” Woods said.
In 2018, he has tied for second in the Valspar tournament, was 32nd at the Masters and missed the cut in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
“I didn’t know it would happen again,” Woods said, “but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to be fun.”