For an eight-hole stretch during the middle of Tiger Woods' round on Saturday afternoon, everything seemed to be falling into place. The irons were pure, the putts were falling ... and the fist-pump. Oh, the fist-pump was in full effect.
It was vintage Tiger at Pebble Beach, as the former No. 1-ranked player in the world used a run of six birdies between the 13th and 2nd hole -- his round started on the back nine -- to fire a third round 5-under 67 on Saturday. The round also marked the first time since the 2009 Tour Championship that Woods has opened with three consecutive rounds in the 60's.
We've talked all week about Woods' improved play from tee to green, but it was actually his ability to fight through a case of the blocks in the middle of his round that made you realize he's starting to own his swing. After blocking his drive on the 18th and a 4-iron off the tee on the 1st, Woods seemed to piece things back together over the next couple of holes, giving himself a number of birdie chances down the stretch.
Even though he cooled off after his red-hot run earlier in the day -- he didn't make a birdie over his final seven holes -- his ability to keep things together was impressive. It told you everything you needed to know about the progress he's made with Sean Foley over the last year.
Woods now finds himself four shots back of leader Charlie Wi heading into the final round, and that's exactly where he hoped he'd be when the week started -- right there in the mix on Sunday with a chance to do something special on a course that's been a part of some of his most historic moments.
Nobody knows for sure if Tiger has the final round kick in him to pass Wi, but with the meltdowns we've seen over the last couple of weeks, it's clear nothing is certain when it comes to Sunday on the PGA Tour. What is certain, however, is that Woods is back in contention on a weekly basis, something golf fans have been looking for over the last year-plus.
He's not all the way back just yet -- but he's getting close. That alone should be enough to make his competition a little squeamish going into the final round.
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