Tiger Woods Shakes Off “Fluke” Mis-hit, Still Leads at Bay Hill
Saturday 71 hits bump when woman’s shout startles Woods in mid-swing, leading to double bogey.
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ORLANDO — The Arnold Palmer Invitational’s final day might have been set up for a crowning lap — welcoming Tiger Woods back among the fold of PGA Tour winners, at a place where victory fits him like an old glove.
Then came The Shriek.
Call it coincidence or call it karma, ending this winless drought isn’t bound to come easily.
Startled by a woman’s distressed shout in midswing, Woods hooked his tee shot into someone’s back yard at No. 15, sending him to a double bogey that leaves the eventual outcome very much in question.
A 1-under-par 71 still put Woods atop the leaderboard when the dust settled Saturday, but only by a single stroke over former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Four other pros lurked within four shots, leaving little room to relax.
“I still have the lead,” Woods said, which was noteworthy in itself. You have to go back 30 months to find the last time he took a lead into Sunday on the PGA Tour, at the 2009 BMW Championship.
“It’s not like I’m slashing it all over the place and happen to be at 11-under par. If you’re in the lead, you’ve done some good things. That’s how I’ve always looked at it, and it’s a nice position to be in.”
Woods, who reached 13-under before the hiccup, completed three loops around Bay Hill Club & Lodge in 11-under 205. McDowell also posted a 71, following up his stellar Friday 63 with a steady round of two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars.
Ernie Els (67), making a final push for a last-minute Masters invitation, was another two shots back at alongside Ian Poulter (68). At 7-under were Charles Howell (68) and Johnson Wagner (69).
Woods has stacks of numbers on his side. Not only does he own six wins at Bay Hill — seven if you count the 1991 U.S. Junior at Arnie’s Place — but he has gone 37-2 on the PGA Tour when taking an outright lead into the final round.
Recent history, though, paints a different picture. Woods has failed to close out a 54-hole lead in three of his past five opportunities worldwide, including two months ago at Abu Dhabi. It also happened at the 2009 PGA Championship, out-dueled by Y.E. Yang, and the 2010 Chevron World Challenge — where McDowell chased him down from four shots back.
“I know he says he’s not on a comeback; he’s been around a long time,” McDowell said. “But he’s still got to win tomorrow like the rest of us have to.”
Four shots ahead with five holes to play, Woods hit a bit of turbulence when he bogeyed the par-3 14th from a back bunker. Then came The Shriek.
From a concession stand about 25 yards from the 15th tee, a woman shouted for help as she saw a teenager slump to the ground. That happened to be when Woods was starting his powerful downswing.
The noise caused Woods to hit the ground before his ball, sending it flying into a row of homes.
“I tried to stop,” he said matter-of-factly, “but I had passed the point of no return.”
Suddenly the margin was one shot, which was wiped away when McDowell birdied the par-3 17th up ahead. That lasted no more than a minute, though, as Woods bounced back with a birdie at the par-5 16th.
“It was a solid day,” Woods said. “We just happened to have just one little fluke thing where a kid passed out.”