CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND | The line was cast but Tiger Woods wasn’t taking the bait.
Asked what it would mean if he were to win the Open Championship on Sunday at Carnoustie, Woods smiled and shook his head.
“We’re not there yet. I know what you’re trying to say in asking, but let me try to get there first. Then ask me again,” Woods said Saturday afternoon, the satisfaction of his third-round 66 settling over him.
Two realities emerged on a warm, soft Saturday at Carnoustie:
Woods had a share of the lead midway through the third round of a major championship, though he didn’t realize it at the time. He has not had the lead at the end of any round in a major since the second round of the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
And the leaderboard is still stacked against him with 18 holes remaining.
“It would be nice if there weren’t a lot of guys between myself and the lead, but not the way this golf course was going to set up. We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it’s turning out to be that,” Woods said.
“I didn’t want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 (under par) today. Five (under) is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”
Woods will start four behind Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner (who are at 9-under par) with five players in front of him.
The weather forecast, famously fickle on the edge of the North Sea, calls for the wind to return after a three-day absence at Carnoustie. If it blows as expected – around 20 mph – the nature of the course will change dramatically.
On a Saturday when going low was essential, Woods did it. He slightly modified his relatively conservative approach off the tee but he still didn’t adopt a bombs-away mode. Woods ranks tied for second in fairways hit in regulation through 54 holes.
He holed a couple of long putts and did virtually everything right until he pulled his tee shot dangerously close to the Barry Burn on the 18th hole but managed to construct a par that felt big at the end.
It felt like vintage Woods with the Scottish crowds standing atop dunes and crowding around greens to see him do his work.
“That was good. I played well today,” said Woods, who grades himself on a tough scale.
Woods understands the challenge facing him on Sunday. But from where he was to where he is with 18 holes remaining, it’s a good place to be.
“I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year,” Woods said. “Given what happened last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to be fun.”