Saturday, June 16, 2007

Woods was teasingly close to flawless

History will record Tiger Woods’ third-round score at the U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club Saturday as a 1-under par 69 and it will look, days and years from now, like just another good score in a long line.

But Woods flirted with Johnny Miller territory Saturday and had he been able to redirect his golf ball a total of, say, three inches, he might have shot 63 himself.

That’s how good Woods was in terms of ballstriking in the third round. When he birdied the third and fourth holes to get the attention of the tournament leaders before they teed off, a ripple of excitement was finally in the Oakmont air.

It looked and felt as if something spectacular were going to happen thanks to the chiseled man in the turquoise shirt. He was in control of a golf course that had been in control of everyone – save Paul Casey on Friday – since the tournament began.

Walking the back nine with Tiger on a Saturday afternoon warm enough to put a sheen of sweat on most faces, it was like watching a master at work. The few fairways he missed – until his tee shot at No. 18 leaked right into a bunker – were by a yard or two.

He kept firing iron shots at the flag, posing after them.

"Very clinical," playing partner Nick Dougherty said.

And the putts kept burning the edge of the hole. An eagle putt at four peeked in. A downhill slider at the fifth singed the lip. A birdie at the 13th played peek-a-boo with the hole.

It was teasingly close to flawless.

And it left Tiger teasingly close to another major championship.

Ron Green Jr.