Hero World Challenge: Hoffman ahead by five,Tiger fades

With Tiger Woods out of the title-race, Hoffman leans on a five-stroke cushion knowing he can’t afford to relax.

Charley Hoffman battled to stay comfortably ahead at the Hero World Challenge, while Tiger Woods was blown away.   -  AFP

For two days, the best of golfers covered the 7400-yard course at Albany without the ‘elements’ coming into play. However, on a windy Saturday afternoon, the Ernie Els-designed course tested the golfers’ skills to the hilt.

At the end, though Charley Hoffman battled to stay comfortably ahead, while Tiger Woods was blown away.

Read: Return a success regardless of outcome at Hero World Challenge, says Tiger Woods

Not surprisingly, the third round of $3.5-millon Hero World Challenge did not see a single sub-70 card. Only four-under-par scores were posted with Hoffman bringing in a two under 70 for a five-stroke lead over Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth.

Rose, like Francesco Molinari and Patrick Reed, shot a 71 to stay close to the leader. But the much-followed Tiger lost his way with a 75.

Starting the day at seven-under and tied for the fifth place, the 41-year-old slipped to share the 10th spot, with a round to go. After dropping a shot on the first hole, Tiger bogeyed three more times before reaching the eighth tee. He began the back-nine with a bogey but played steadily on the last eight holes, picking up two strokes on the way.

Read: Back causing no problems at all, says Tiger Woods

Candidly, Tiger assessed the round, “Well, that’s just golf. We’re always going to face adversity. It was frustrating that I couldn’t get it turned around on the easier holes. I birdied the 14th but I played four par 5s and I hadn’t made a birdie yet. That’s not very good.

“Whatever I did right ended up in a bad spot and whatever I did wrong was really wrong. It kept going the wrong way. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. I’m not the only one who’s struggling at times out here.”

Indeed. Even Hoffman had his moments of despair. He double-bogeyed the 10th hole after landing in the bushes and blew away a two-stroke lead that let at least six golfers come into contention.

But the 40-year-old, known for his exceptional putting abilities, broke away on the closing holes. Hoffman birdied the 14th, 15th and 18th holes while Rose and Spieth bogeyed twice and birdied once while coming in.

“I wouldn’t say I didn’t struggle,” admitted Hoffman and continued, “There was a struggle for an extended period of time.  I got lucky on some tee balls that didn’t find the bushes, stayed in the sandy areas and I was able to hang on there.”

With Tiger out of the title-race, Hoffman leans on a five-stroke cushion knowing he can’t afford to relax.

 

Third round scores:

202 – Charley Hoffman (US) (69, 63, 70); 207 – Justin Rose (Eng) (68, 68, 71), Jordan Speith (US) (68, 67, 72); 208 – Francesco Molinari (Ita) (69, 68, 71); 209 – Rickie Fowler (US) (67, 70, 72), Patrick Reed (US) (72, 66, 71), Matt Kuchar (US) (67, 70, 72), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) (71, 66, 72), Tommy Fleetwood (US) (66, 69, 74); 212 –Kevin Chappell (US) (68, 70, 74), Tiger Woods (US) (69, 68, 75); 213 – Justin Thomas (US) (69, 70, 74); 216 – Alex Noren (Swe) (73, 69, 74), Dustin Johnson (US) (68, 72, 76); 217 – Kevin Kisner (US) (70, 72, 75); 218 – Daniel Berger (US) (75, 73, 70), Henrik Stenson (Swe) (70, 71, 77); 221 – Brooks Koepka (US) (71, 78, 72).