Feeling sick to his stomach and battling a flu bug before the round ever began, Tiger Woods fought his way around Muirfield Village Golf Club on Saturday and posted a 1-over-par 73 in the Memorial Tournament. All things considered, it could have been worse.
“I got a little tired at the end,” said Woods, who made three birdies and four back-nine bogeys. “I had opportunities to move up that board on the back nine and I didn’t do it. I missed a few putts I should have made, but I’m still in the ballgame.”
Woods, seeking his fifth win in the event, has a 54-hole score of 4-under 212, four strokes behind leader Spencer Levin. A victory by Woods would tie tournament host Jack Nicklaus for second place on the PGA Tour’s all-time wins list with 73.
“Obviously, that would be nice,” Woods said. “I still have a lot of work to do. I’m four back and I’ve got to focus on that.”
Playing in cool, blustery conditions with Scott Stallings in the second-to-last twosome, Woods birdied the 470-yard, par-4 first hole for the second straight day. After a good drive, he hit his approach shot from 180 yards onto the back-right fringe, then rolled in a 21-foot putt.
Tiger did well to two-putt the 455-yard, par-4 second hole from 35 feet, leaving his birdie attempt nearly four feet short. He was able to convert and took the outright tournament lead at 6-under.
Woods gave himself a good birdie chance at the par-4 third, two-putting from 14 feet. At the 205-yard, par-3 fourth, his tee shot found the green but left him with a 53-foot uphill putt. Tiger easily two-putted for a par.
The 527-yard, par-5 fifth gave him problems. Woods drove into the right rough and tried to hit his second shot over trees to get back into the fairway. The ball didn’t make it, hanging up a steep slope of thick grass. Faced with an awkward stance, Tiger slashed his third shot from 130 yards into the front-right bunker, then hit a beautifully judged explosion shot within three feet of the cup to save par.
At the par-4 sixth, Woods hit a nice tee shot, then knocked his second shot nine feet from the pin but was unable to capitalize. Tiger hit a good drive at the 563-yard, par-5 seventh hole, then launched his second shot from nearly 260 yards, the ball catching the right greenside bunker. Woods blasted his third shot about two feet from the hole for an easy birdie.
Woods hit a superb 7-iron from 165 yards at the par-3 eighth, the ball finishing seven feet right of the hole. The birdie putt looked true, but it caught the left edge of the cup and lipped out.
At the par-4 ninth hole, Woods two-putted for a par from 52 feet to make the turn in 2-under 34. At 7-under for the tournament, he trailed Levin by one stroke.
The back nine proved a challenge for Woods, who started poorly with a bogey at the par-4 10th hole. He drove into the left rough, came up short of the green with his second shot and missed a 14-foot par putt.
At the 567-yard, par-5 11th, Tiger played two solid shots and was left with about 100 yards to the green. He hit a poor third shot 30 feet above the cup and two-putted for a par.
Once again, Woods struggled at the par-3 12th, where he drove into the back bunker and faced a downhill lie toward the flag, with water looming behind. Tiger took the safe route by blasting away from the cup to the right, then made a nice two-putt from 40 feet to salvage bogey.
At the 342-yard, par-4 13th, Woods blistered a drive down the fairway, then hit a lob wedge from 107 yards within four feet of the hole and sunk the birdie putt. Tiger gave himself another great birdie chance at the par-4 14th, where he hit a sand wedge to nine feet but missed the putt.
A poor drive at the par-5 15th did not allow Tiger to challenge the green in two. After laying up, he hit a 7-iron from 152 yards 30 feet past the hole and nearly made the putt, just missing on the right.
At the 201-yard, par-3 16th, Woods played safely to the right of the hole and had a 24-foot birdie putt. He ran it six feet past and missed for his first three-putt of the tournament.
Woods drove into the left fairway bunker at the par-4 17th, but hit a wonderful second shot from 145 yards to about 10 feet from the cup. However, he was unable to convert.
At the par-4 18th hole, Woods again knocked his tee shot into the left fairway bunker. This time, his approach landed near the front of the green and spun back 30 yards from the pin. Faced with a steep uphill chip, Tiger almost holed out the shot, but the ball slipped 10 feet above the cup and he two-putted for a bogey.
After using 28 putts each of the first two rounds, Woods needed 32 on Saturday. He also hit 72 percent of the greens and 71 percent of the fairways in regulation.
Woods will look to improve his play on the par-3s and par-5s on Sunday. He was 2-over on the par-3s Saturday and only 1-under on the par-5s.
Woods tees off Sunday at 1:20 p.m. ET with Rickie Fowler in the second-to-last twosome.