HOYLAKE, England — Tiger Woods was the last to tee off Saturday in the British Open. He had the biggest gallery. It might have seemed like old times for Woods in the major championships except for one tiny detail.
He was starting on the 10th tee in last place. And this third round didn’t get much better.
Woods began the British Open with five birdies in a six-hole stretch for a 69 that put him only three shots behind Rory McIlroy. He walked off Royal Liverpool on Saturday with another round over par, leaving him 19 shots out of the lead.
“Made a lot of mistakes,” Woods said.
Woods was 5 over on the opening two holes going into the weekend. At least he was able to start with a par 5 on Saturday at No. 10, and he opened with a pair of birdies. That was about as good as it got.
He made a double bogey for the second straight day, this time at No. 2. He drove into a gorse bush on the seventh fairway and made a triple bogey for the second straight day. The damage added to a 73.
“I’ve made two doubles and two triples,” Woods said. “But on top of that, I missed a lot of shots for opportunities for birdies, and consequently I’m 3-over par.”
Woods is playing for only the second time since back surgery on March 31. He missed the cut at Congressional three weeks ago. He has not mentioned anything about pain from his back surgery, which is good news for him. And he said he was starting to get into the flow of playing tournament golf again.
“But still I’ve just made too many mistakes,” he said. “You can’t run up high scores like that and expect to contend, especially when the conditions are this benign. Most of the scores are 3-under par or better. I certainly didn’t do that.”
Woods was tied for 58th. Except for missing the cut five years ago at Turnberry, he has never finished out of the top 30 in the British Open.
This week doesn’t seem to provide any answers about being picked for the Ryder Cup. U.S. captain Tom Watson has said he wants Woods on the team provided he is healthy and playing well. Woods at least is playing better than the 64-year-old Watson, who shot a 75 and is two shots behind Woods.
Watson had hoped to talk to Woods this week about the Ryder Cup. Watson said all he had time to say to Woods this week was, “Hello.”
Darren Clarke has only two top 10s in the three years since he won The Open at Royal St. George’s — a runner-up against a weak field in China, and a tie for eighth in the Australian PGA Championship.
He gave himself a chance for another with a 5-under 67 on Saturday, matching the best score of the day. Clarke was 11 shots out of the lead in a tie for 12th.
“I’ve been playing OK for quite some time,” Clarke said. “Today I holed a couple of putts and managed to keep some momentum going.”
Of course, he has had to adjust to a new body. Clarke has lost some 50 pounds after seeing photos of himself that he thought made him look too large.
“I’m not as fat as I was,” he said. “So my timing, it took me a little bit of time to adjust to that. The ball-striking has been pretty good. I just need to knock in a few putts and get some momentum going. It feels like I’ve started to do that.”
The goal for Rory McIlroy is to win the claret jug Sunday, and he’s in great shape with a six-shot lead.
A few more records also are in range.
McIlroy was at 16-under 200.
He would need a 66 to break the 72-hole record of 267 that Greg Norman set at Royal St. George’s in 1993. More in range would be Tiger Woods’ record for all major championships in relation to par — 19 under at St. Andrews in 2000. McIlroy would need a 68 to break that record.
McIlroy already holds the U.S. Open record for score (268) and par (16 under) at Congressional in 2011.
As for margin of victory? That’s most likely out of range.
Old Tom Morris won by 13 shots in 1862, when the Open was played over 36 holes. But he would have a reasonable shot at the largest margin for 72 holes at The Open. Four players hold that record — eight shots — most recently by Woods at St. Andrews in 2000.
Tee times in the dark
Henrik Stenson wasn’t bothered by the two-tee start as much as not knowing when he was playing.
Stenson was among several players who were trying to find out their tee times for Saturday before going to bed.
“That was probably more of a nuisance than starting off two tees,” he said. “I went to bed. I was just guesstimating. And I was only five minutes out on my guesstimate when I was going to tee off. Yeah, you hope to have tee times before 11 or 11:30 the night before the third round.”
Stenson didn’t find out his actual time until the morning. He said his caddie woke up in the middle of the night and checked. He didn’t think it was that big of a deal to other players unless they “didn’t guess as good as I did.”
Jordan Spieth has now played with Tiger Woods five times this year — twice at Torrey Pines, twice at Congressional and Saturday in the British Open. Spieth is 20 shots better than Woods in those five rounds. ... McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are the only players to shoot in the 60s all three rounds going into Sunday. Three players have posted all four rounds in the 60s at The Open without winning — Ernie Els at Royal Troon in 2004, Jesper Parnevik at Turnberry in 1994, and Els at Royal St. George’s in 1993. ... Matteo Manassero didn’t register a par until the eighth hole. He opened with two bogeys, followed with four straight birdies and made another bogey at No. 7. Manassero wound up with a 68 and was tied for seventh.