Tiger Woods failed to fire in the third round of the Barclays Saturday. Phil Mickelson did fire, but it might be too late. Putting was the key to Woods' failure and Mickelson's success.
Woods shot a 1-over-par 72 Saturday, three-putting four greens. Mickelson shot 4-under 67 and didn't three-putt once. Both are tied at 4 under for the tournament, six shots behind leader Sergio Garcia.
Woods showed no ill effects from the back problems he had during Friday's round when he shot a 68. He said that he would be sleeping on the floor of his hotel Friday night, and playing partner Gary Christian confirmed that he had. But it was Woods' putter that went into spasm.
"I played the way I needed to play," Woods said. "I played a beautiful round of golf. Unfortunately, I didn't clean up on the greens. I've never seen greens change like this, from what they were [Friday] to today. The grass even seems slippery. I think Gary out there today on the first hole, he put his putter down and it slipped. We had a little bit of a chuckle. It was unbelievable how fast they got."
Three of Woods' three-putt greens were on the front side, at the third, the fifth and the ninth.
"Trust me, I was certainly getting frustrated," Woods said. "I had to tell myself I was right in the ballgame and no one was going anywhere . . . The guys weren't running away with it. We are all bunched together."
After stomping on Woods to win the AT&T at Pebble Beach back in February, Mickelson has had an inconsistent year. His iron play has been spotty, his putting wobbly. Saturday, for the first time in his career, he used the "claw" grip in competition and he rolled the ball well on the slippery greens. He had eight putts in the 29 to 40-foot range, made two of them and the others were never more than 18 inches from the hole.
"I drove the ball well and I putted very well and I hit some good iron shots," Mickelson said. "For me, it built some good momentum after a day yesterday where I had lost a little bit of confidence."
Neither Woods nor Mickelson are counting themselves out.
"This golf course lends itself to being bunched and all I need to do is hang in there," Woods said. "At one point, I was three back of the lead. Unfortunately, I didn't stay there, but hopefully, tomorrow I can put it together."