He wanted this.
He needed this round of golf, desperately.
This was the day Tiger Woods has worked hard for. This was finally his day, the day he put it all together for the most part.
The Saturday buzz at The Players Championship was not the wait for Webb Simpson to tee off. Instead, it was the early noise made by Woods.
He almost didn’t have a chance to shoot the 65 he put on the leaderboard for his third round. Thanks to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. They both bogeyed the 18th hole late Friday to open the door for Woods and the rest who shot one-under and were sweating the cut line.
Many will say he looked like the old Tiger, but not really. Yes, for 12 holes he did because he was eight-under. The old Tiger would have found two more birdies coming home and shot a course-record 62. The “new” old Tiger played those last six one-over and he knew it.
“I was eight under through 12 and felt like I could have got a couple (birdies) more and shot 10-under,” Woods said after an excellent day’s work. “But I’ll take it (65).”
Darn right he’ll take it.
This is the day where most of the pieces of his physical and mental puzzle fell into place. Stats showed it. Only 27 putts. He hit 11 of 14 fairways and that was a biggie for him. Fifteen of 18 greens gave him the looks for birdie he needed to go low.
“I got off to a good start and kept it rollin’ from there. Sixty-five was probably the highest score I could have shot. I was a little more aggressive off the tee, the ball was just flying today. Hot and humid. I had 196 into 18 and hit nine-iron.”
He emphasized the start. Back-to-back birdies at one and two, four and five then two more at seven and nine added up to 30, a personal best for Woods on the front nine at the Stadium Course.
“Eventually I’d put all the pieces together and today was a lot of that,” Woods said afterward. “I was controlling it a bit better today.”
Then there was the putter. It was bad last week but really good on Saturday. He made 13 of 14 inside of 10 feet. His only miss came from seven feet for birdie at the easy par five 16th.
“I made some putts today. It was obviously the difference,” he was quick to say.
His wasn’t the only great morning round. Spieth, who helped Woods stay for the weekend, put up his own 65 and both will start Sunday from eight-under.
They were in the top 10 early but Woods warned they wouldn’t be by the end of the Saturday round.
“It’s gettable,” Woods said of the course. “It’s humid and the greens should stay receptive all day. It’s a set-up for the guys to go low.”
And Woods was happy to be one of them.