PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods turned in his best round of the season and his lowest score ever at The Players Championship.
It sky-rocketed him up the leaderboard, and he stayed there.
Woods shot a 7-under 65 in the third round Saturday, besting his previous low score on the Stadium Course, ironed out his iron shots, fine-tuned his putter and was so hot through 12 holes that it looked as if he might challenge the Stadium Course record at TPC Sawgrass.
“I wish I could repeat it more often, but honestly it was just a better start,” Woods said. “I got off to a much better-quality start.”
Woods took advantage of warm temperatures, soft greens and little wind by making birdies at three of the first four holes. He drained putts of 15, 5, 10 and 17 feet, regaining a scoring touch that eluded him last week at the Wells Fargo Championship and in the opening two rounds in Ponte Vedra Beach.
“Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together and today, for the most part, I did that,” he said. “I hit a lot of good, quality shots. I hit some shots in the correct spots, which was nice. I hit probably three of the best long irons I’ve hit all week.”
Woods will be paired with Jordan Spieth for the final round Sunday and will start the day 11 shots behind Webb Simpson.
No one has ever overcome such a deficit to win on the PGA Tour.
Nonetheless, Woods likes how his game is coming together.
He pointed to his tee shot at the 242-yard, par-3 eighth, which landed a little more than 30 feet from the hole; his second shot at the par-5 ninth, which stopped on the fringe from nearly 270 yards out; and his towering approach shot at the par-5 11th, which carried two bunkers and part of a pond before landing on the putting surface and leaving him a lengthy eagle putt.
His only complaint was not keeping it rolling. He cooled off down the stretch, making five pars and a bogey over the final six holes.
He pushed his drive into thick rough at the difficult par-4 14th and ended up with his lone bogey of the day. He had a chance to get it back two holes later, but lipped out a 10-footer following a stellar bunker shot.
“To be 8-under there through 12, realistically I probably could have got a couple more out of it and got to 10 (under) for the day,” he said. “But I’ll take it.”