As expected, the TPC Blue Monster’s easiest hole propels golfers, and its most difficult greets them at the end.
Through three days, the par-5, 529-yard first hole has given up 104 birdies and six eagles. That’s more birdies than pars (81) and bogeys (four) combined. The average score is 4.426 or .574 under par.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods’ birdie on the par-4, 467-yard 18th hole was only the 16th in the first three rounds. The maw of The Blue Monster devoured 32 bogeys, 14 double bogeys and three triple bogeys. The scoring average is 4.272, or .272 over par.
Justin Rose, the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship winner, is tied for 19th at 6-under-par 210. Rose made a charge Friday up the leaderboard to 8-under with seven holes remaining. It certainly seemed he could push right into the lead pack with a finish in line with the birdie-heavy overall play of the day.
But Rose not only didn’t get another birdie, but also made bogey on No. 7 and closed with a triple bogey on the par-3 ninth hole. On Saturday, after the customary birdie on No. 1, he double bogeyed the 438-yard par-4 third hole. Birdies at Nos. 8, 10 and 11 got him back to 6-under, but he went no farther.
Among those shooting 5-under 67 Saturday, the best third round score, was last week’s Honda Classic winner Michael Thompson. Thompson is tied for fifth at 11-under 205 with Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley.
In fact, Garcia and Thompson were the best scoring twosome of the day, getting the two 67s that didn’t belong to Woods or Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts.
“He played very solid,” Garcia said of Thompson. “Obviously, he didn’t really miss a lot of shots. He hit some really good putts. And we both played fairly well. I obviously struggled a little bit with the wind on some shots that I hit well and misclubbed because of it, but other than that, for the most part, I hit the ball fairly well, and I’m happy with that.”
As Phil Mickelson pointed out after Saturday’s round, each of the past two years at Doral the winner hasn’t come from the final twosome.
Last year, Rose started Sunday three shots behind Bubba Watson and beat Watson by one. Nick Watney started Sunday in 2011 two shots behind Dustin Johnson and beat Watson by two.
Neither case involved Woods and a four-shot lead. Woods won in 2006 and 2007 as the leader after three rounds.
And the four previous holders of four-shot leads going into the final round at Doral — Woods (2007), Geoff Ogilvy (2008), Lee Trevino (1973) and Hubert Green (1976) — all wound up with the winner’s check.
Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 golfer in the world, continued his struggles Saturday. He shot a 1-under 71 to go with earlier rounds of 73 and 69 for a 3-under 213 total, putting him in a tie for 30th.
Off the course, McIlroy has been criticized for dropping out of the Honda Classic a week ago. Despite those problems, he said his game, obviously bothered by a swing change and a change in clubs, is moving in the right direction.
“Look, I know that I’m moving forward in my game, and I’m going in the right direction, so another productive day Sunday and it will give me something to work on and work towards for the next few weeks.”
Of the Cadillac Championship, he said, “Doesn’t really matter about the scores, but I was just pleased about the shots I was hitting.”
McIlroy took time to compliment Woods.
“He’s such a solid player,” he said. “He does everything well. Everything is just very, very strong.”
Bill Van Smith contributed to this report.