Tiger Woods had to settle for a third-round 71 at the Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas, as he continued his comeback after seven months out recovering from injury.
As with the first two rounds, the 15-time Major winner made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes but, after opening with back-to-back bogeys, he recovered well and showed more than a few glimpses of his class, especially around the greens.
After his round, Woods said that he’d been “pleasantly surprised” by how his body had been holding up, and added: “I still have game. It’s whether or not the body can do it.”
However, it’s the current world number one Scottie Scheffler (65) who has taken charge of Woods’ event.
After starting the day with a share of the lead, the former Masters champion broke clear with an eagle on the par-5 3rd – and he kept his foot firmly on the gas, picking up birdies on the 6th, 7th and 9th to make the turn in 31.
Scheffler’s imperious long game has helped him to take care of the par 5s so far this week, and his work with putting coach Phil Kenyon already appears to be paying dividends.
Coming home, the 27-year-old American, who is playing in his first tournament since the Ryder Cup in Rome, made another birdie on the 12th, before taking complete control of the tournament with three perfect shots on the par-5 15th.
For a brief moment it looked as though Scheffler might drop a shot on the difficult 16th, but he kept his card clean with another perfect putt.
However, the man who’s finished second at this event for the last two years, did offer the chasing pack a glimmer of hope on Sunday with his only dropped shot of the day on 18.
Scheffler will begin the final round with a three-shot lead over England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who posted an impressive 65 of his own.
Hero World Challenge scores:
- -16 Scheffler
- -13 Fitzpatrick
- -11 Thomas
- -10 Day, Finau, Morikawa, Spieth
- -9 Straka, Harman
Tiger Woods score
- Round 3: 71 (-1)
- Tournament: Level
Welcome to moving day
Welcome along to moving day in The Bahamas, where the third round of the Hero World Challenge will shortly be underway. Wyndham Clark and Will Zalatoris are first off at 4.21PM GMT.
Tiger Woods is partnered with Viktor Hovland, and they're off at 4.43PM GMT. Woods is 10 back and unlikely to win this week; he'll be hoping he can at least build on the positive comeback by putting together a round without the sloppy errors that have cost him so far. It's still been a very impressive comeback given that he hasn't played a tournament for seven months.
Horror start for Will
Horror start for Will Zalatoris, who takes a seven on the par-4 1st. He has, quite understandably, been rusty after his lengthy layoff. Lots of good stuff, but some messy holes, too.
He found the fairway bunker off the tee, advanced it 66 yards and then flew the green with his third, before going back over. Three more from there and that's a seven.
Tiger is in the house
Ready for Round 3 🐅 pic.twitter.com/2cbA3DnBbJDecember 2, 2023
What can we expect from Tiger today? I think if he comes through this week without too much pain, he'll be delighted. He can then work the rust off and slip on another Green Jacket in April?
Sloppy start from Tiger
Nothing wrong with the drive, but Tiger has made a five from the fairway. Approach to blame, not his best.
MORE SLOPPY STUFF
Yesterday, a birdie-birdie start, today bogey-bogey. Tiger fails to get up-and-down from the greenside bunker on the par-3 2nd , missing his par putt from about four feet. +2 through 2.
BIRDIE AT 3
Tiger stops the rots with a birdie at the par-5 3rd. Stop the alarm bells, he's steadied the ship. Finds the green in two, and rolls his first putt up to 18 inches. That's more like it.
Tiger makes his first par of the day on four. Two putts safely enough from roughly 50ft.
A ROSEY START
That's one way to get a birdie 🐦@JustinRose99 chips in on No. 1 to start his round. pic.twitter.com/PlJrswI9wYDecember 2, 2023
A nice way to get your round underway. Nicely done by Justin Rose. Meanwhile, Tiger is scrambling on the 5th. So good there from a tricky lie - tap-in par.
TIGER'S ROUND SO FAR IN A PICTURE
That said, he has just hit a huge drive on the par-5 6th. C'mon Tiger, eagle time.
BIRDIE ON 6
Tiger has 236 yards to go for his second into the par-5 6th. That's a better strike. Gives himself a look at eagle, about 40ft. Birdies are dropping in all over the place - there are going to be some low ones out there today. It's Hovland up first from the sand. The Norwegian flies that one too far. Tiger stalking the green like he does. We'll give him that one, 2ft for birdie and he'll go back to even for the day.
GOOD SHAPE ON 7
Tiger leaves himself a short pitch into the 7th, a drivable par 4. Didn't hold back with that drive. Position A, lots of green to work with. Leaders are off shortly, Messrs Scheffler & Spieth (-9).
EVERYONE ON THE COURSE
Early moves from Finau (-8) and Morikawa (-7). The big move, though, has come from Bradley who has made five birdies through eight holes.
JUST A PAR ON 7
Tiger unable to take advantage of the drivable 7th, walks off with a par. He might not win this week but he'll be keen to get under par and finish the week with a couple of rounds in the 60s.
TIGER ON 8
That's a peach. Silence as that ball is in the air and then applause as it lands like a stone a couple of feet from the pin. Best iron shot of the day from Woods on the par-3 8th.
BIRDIE FOR WOODS
And now we're under par. The putt was closer to four feet. That putt will please him as much as the tee shot because he's missed a few of those. -1 for the day and even par for the tournament.
So, round 1, 75, round 2, 70.... today has to be a 65, right?
- -9 Scheffler, Spieth
- -8 Harman, Finau, Morikawa
We make no apologies for focusing on Tiger Woods this week. It is, after all, his tournament, and he's playing competitively for the first time in seven months. We'll bring you updates throughout the day. The leaders have just putted out on the 2nd. More updates on those guys later....
It's good to see The Open champion mixing it up at the top of the leaderboard. Harman is level through two and just one shot off the leaders.
TIGER BIRDIE HUNTING ON 9
Woods smokes another drive down 9, leaving himself 291 yards for his second. Can he take advantage on another par 5? He's taken care of the two that he's played so far, but he hasn't played them too well during the week as a whole, especially the 15th. Let's not focus on that hole and the putt into a bunker that happened yesterday.
Back to Tiger... looking to play a big cut. Didn't quite happen there, come out fairly straight. Greenside bunker and not a lot of green to play with. I much prefer it when the great man is faced with a proper challenge around the greens, one of the greatest sights in the game.
SPIETH IN THE VEGETATION
I thought he'd popped for a toilet break, but no, he's in trouble. More on the leader's troubles in a second. Meanwhile, Tiger plays an audacious bunker shot on 9, flirting with leaving it in the bunker, the ball dying just over the lip and rolling out a few feet short. How has it left it there? Superb touch. Brave. Nothing wrong with the short game.
WOODS BIRDIES 9
After that bogey-bogey start, Woods has rattled off four birdies to turn in 34. Now, can we please back it up with something under par coming home?
WILL'S STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Zalatoris is the only player over par (+3) at the moment. We say that not to pick on the young man, who's making a return from injury, but to emphasise how easy the course is playing for these guys right now, like shelling peas.
WOODS TESTED ON 10
Not the sort of position you want to be facing when you're making your comeback from injury; very awkward stance in the rough on 10. Plays a pretty good shot, finding the green from about 140. No signs of pain there, although he did appear to apply a bit of ointment to his knee after a few holes.
Now for the putt... leaves that one a few feet short but should tidy up there without any problems. Onto 11...
AN OMINOUS SIGN
Scottie Scheffler has eagled the par-5 3rd. He's two clear.
POETRY IN MOTION
The tracer 🤩 pic.twitter.com/xDAPRQZS65December 2, 2023
TIGER LONG ON 11
Well, you can't drive every par 5. Woods finds the rough off the tee, but his layup is absolutely fine. He has 98 yards to give with his third, came out hot and he's gone long. More short-game heroics needed....
SPIETH STRUGGLING... OR IS HE?
Yesterday he put on a clinic, but today Spieth is having one of those days where you just don't know where his ball is going next. He's is the native area/sand on the par-3 5th after a real wide. His second shot is delightful. Par. Pure Spieth.
BOGEY ON 11 FOR WOODS
Woods normally devours par 5s, but he's had his problems on the long ones this week. The third shot was to blame, going long from 98 yards and he really had no shot from there. Two putts after chipping on. Back to level.
HOVLAND OUT OF SORTS
Hard to criticise anyone at this time of the year; it's been a long year and with Christmas just around the corner, there's bound to be a bit of fatigue playing a part. Viktor is having a rare off week, unspectacular you might say. The Norwegian star is +1 and only has two players behind him - Wyndham Clark at +3 and Will Zalatoris at +10.
WOODS STAYS -1
Woods' first putt on 12 came up six feet short. Had to go to work on that one. Doesn't look ecstatic, but he drains it. Stays -1 for the day.
SCHEFFLER TWO CLEAR
It's like watching a robot. Scheffler makes birdie on the par-5 6th with a routine up-and-down from just off the front of the green. The world number one just keeps his foot on the accelerator. He could show the field a clean pair of heels the way he's playing.
WOODS IN GREENSIDE BUNKER ON 14
Woods with a decent drive on the drivable 14th, finds the greenside bunker. It should be an easy enough up-and-down from there. Meanwhile, Scottie Scheffler goes three clear with a birdie on seven - that one from about 15 feet. A case of catch me if you can...
BIRDIE ON 14
Woods with another classy bunker shot. Inches it's way down to the hole and he tidies up from 3 feet.
A CLASSY CHASING PACK
Scheffler does have a three-shot lead, but right behind him are Messrs Finau, Fitzpatrick, Morikawa and Spieth. Even if he had peak Woods in his slipstream, he wouldn't be fazed. This guy is absolutely striping it right now.
WOODS ON 15...
Hates this hole. Hates it. Misses a 3-footer. A par on that hole is really a bogey. He's lost a lot of ground on the par-5 15th this week, which isn't like him. We keep saying it, though.... RUST.
SCHEFFLER EXTENDS LEAD
Just the five under through nine holes, and Scottie Scheffler heads into the back nine with a three-shot lead. Masterclass.
BOMB FROM TIGER ON 16
Another bomb from Tiger on 16. Driving isn't the problem, nor is the short game. The question at this moment in time is whether he can play enough in 2024 to get sharper on the greens. Anyway, let's enjoy his last 21 holes here in The Bahamas before talking more about that. 212 yards left into the par-4 16th...
TIGER LONG ON 16
Eeeeew, that's a bad one - long through 16. That ball was travelling. Quite where that's ended up, we're not so sure.... he looks a little frustrated at the moment, does Tiger. The good news is he's still walking well.
Tiger magic. pic.twitter.com/fZYE0Ci0huDecember 2, 2023
Someone's been practising in their backyard.
PAR ON 16
Woods somehow gets that up and down from through the back of the 16th, great putt. Hovland has the honor on the par-3 17th; he fires a dart at the pin. What does Tiger have in store for us? Pulls out the 8-iron. Great strike, right at it, but bounces just through the green. A little bit of work to do here.
DAY IN THE MIX
With our focus on Tiger Woods, we've failed to mention Jason Day today. The former world number one has moved into contention courtesy of six birdies through 14 holes. The Aussie is just four back.
Woods, meanwhile, plays a delightful little mid iron along the ground. Great to see. It almost looks like a mis-strike but it's because we're so used to seeing loft around the greens.
TIGER CARDS 71
Bit of a jumpy lie coming in from the rough on 18 - and jump it did. Another chance to witness his short-game prowess. He's through the back, takes a free drop because he's up against the stand. Uses the contours, very good. About 6 feet left for par. Misses it. Shame. It's a 71. Plenty of positives again.
SCHEFFLER TO -15
Scottie's 15-foot putt on the 11th looks like it's going to pull up short, but it just drops - and he's now three clear of Tony Finau. This is a very impressive round from Scheffler, who doesn't look like making any mistakes at the moment.
WOODS "PLEASANTLY SURPRISED"
Good to hear. Woods says the way his body has held up so far this week has surprised him.
"I STILL HAVE GAME"
More from Woods. Says "I still have game, it's whether or not the body can do it."
FITZ WITH EAGLE
As well as Scheffler has played, he's not shaken off Tony Finau (-13) - and now Matt Fitzpatrick is back in the mix after making an eagle at the par-5 15th. The former US Open champ sits three back on -12.
Things have slowed up a bit on the back nine, groups waiting on tees etc. Scheffler is three shots clear and has just played his tee shot on 15. Finds the fairway, another one.
THAT FITZ EAGLE
Eagle from way downtown 🦅@MattFitz94 sunk this one from 46 feet at Hero World Challenge. pic.twitter.com/hSTUVA5yI9December 2, 2023
That's how you make up some ground, Matthew.
Not a lot else you can say. Scheffler makes his second eagle of the day at the par-5 15th to open up a five-shot lead. As dominant a tee-to-green performance as you will see. A 370-yard drive, 190-yard approach to 12 feet. One putt.
Well, then. What do we have here? Scheffler is facing a lengthy par putt - not a birdie or an eagle putt, but a par putt. You have to think he has to miss this one on 16 to give the others a sniff on Sunday. He doesn't.
SCOTTIE'S SECOND EAGLE
To lead by FIVE 🔥Scottie Scheffler pours in his second eagle of the day. pic.twitter.com/RwbkLIE3FMDecember 2, 2023
We've seen quite a few eagles today, but none better than this one - three perfect shots. Sadly we can only bring you the boring one, here, the putt. Another pure strike finds the center of the cup.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
Last tee shots of the day. Spieth has the honor after that birdie on 17. Finds the fairway bunker. How's the foot slide from Scheffler here... not one of his slidiest. However, he finds the rough and it looks to have finished in a jumpy kind of lie. If anyone is to have a chance on Sunday, you feel Scheffler is going to need to give them some help... starting now.
SCHEFFLER FINISHES WITH A BOGEY
"You've got to be kidding me," says Scheffler, rather loudly. His approach kicks right and he faces a tough up-and-down on 18. It's got his full attention. Plays a very good shot but it just rolls past some 15 feet. Great touch to bump and run it through the Bermuda grass - he has all the shots this fella.
Spieth fails to convert his par putt and drops back to -10. Now for Scottie. Nope. Closing bogey, his one and only dropped shot of the day. The man is human after all. He'll start the final round with a three-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick. Join us again tomorrow, folks.