LA JOLLA — On moving day Saturday in the Farmers Insurance Open, the field mostly moved backward. No one distanced himself from the struggling pack in the third round at Torrey Pines South, a golf course with U.S. Open rough and a knack for turning mediocre shots into really bad ones.
There are 25 players within five shots of leader Gary Woodland, who is at eight-under-par 208 after shooting a two-under 70 Saturday. Woodland, a former college basketball player who's using an athlete's aggressive approach to attack this formidable course, was the only player among the top five to break par Saturday.
On a calm, warm day perfectly suited to relaxing on the beach below, only 18 of 82 golfers managed a score of 71 or better on the par-72, 7,698-yard seaside layout. Only five scored in the 60s. And for one notable player, the weather was a lot nicer than the golf: The best golfer in the world had one of the worst rounds of his career.
"The greens are firm, the course is long, the rough is really high," said Keegan Bradley, whose 71 left him four shots off the lead. "These are basically U.S. Open conditions.
"But I think I'm in good shape and can shoot a good score on this course."
That was a familiar refrain from the leaders. It wasn't from Tiger Woods.
Making his first start of the year after six weeks off, Woods couldn't find the fairway or the hole. Beginning the day nine shots off the lead at one under par, he shot a mind-numbing 79.
Woodland is a shot ahead of Marc Leishman and second-round leader Jordan Spieth, who scrambled to a 75 with a strong finish. Pat Perez and Morgan Hoffmann are at six under and seven more are another shot back. It's crowded near the top.
They'll be chasing Woodland at the start Sunday. A two-time winner on tour, Woodland, 29, played basketball for Division II Washburn University as a freshman. It didn't take him long to realize that the future for a reserve guard who averaged six points a game probably wasn't going to be on the hardwood.
"We played Kansas in an exhibition, and I knew right away I wasn't going to be playing basketball after college," he said. Woodland transferred to Kansas to play golf, turned pro in 2007 and hasn't looked back. "This has worked out pretty well for me," he said.
Woodland is a long hitter who can reach all the par fives at the South Course in two. He says he's playing confidently enough to be in attack mode.
"I'm comfortable playing aggressively," he said.
The couple of hundred fans who made the 20-minute, early-morning hike out to the 10th tee to witness a third-round charge from Woods instead watched him trip out of the gate, then stagger wildly to the finish. Wearing gray slacks, a black shirt, black cap and a frown, Woods bogeyed his first hole after missing the fairway off the tee, a problem on this course. He managed to hit not quite 43% of the fairways off the tee in his three rounds.
The world's No. 1 player did make three birdies in his first eight holes, but double bogeys on his ninth hole, the par-five 18th after hitting his second shot into the pond in front of the green, and on the next hole after missing yet another green, assured that he would not win at this course for a ninth time on tour.
It didn't get better. He bogeyed the next five holes, a stretch of seven holes played in an astonishing nine over par. Woods, who usually picks up ground on the par fives, went the other way this week. He played them in four over, without a birdie.
Woods' game Saturday seemed better suited to the amateur tournament being played on the adjacent North Course. Still, the gallery continued to follow him while the rest of the field pulled away. He began the day tied for 50th place. He finished with a score two shots higher than his previous worst score at a course he usually owns. It was only the fifth time he's had a score that high on tour. Had he not managed a birdie on his 16th hole, he might have challenged his worst score ever as a professional — an 81 in driving rain in the third round of the 2002 British Open.
Woods missed the 54-hole cut. (A second cut after the usual second-round cut goes into effect if more than 78 players reach the third round.) Phil Mickelson, with a fan base here that rivals Woods' and a three-time winner of the event, withdrew Friday night because of a bad back, leaving the tournament without its top two names.
Woods was not chatty after finishing. Approached by an official to escort him to the interview area, Woods simply said "Nothing."
Woods' six-over 222 was better than only one golfer in the field, Michael Block, the head professional at Arroyo Trabuco in Mission Viejo. Block shot an 86 Saturday.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun