Tiger Woods will be the story on Sunday at Muirfield Golf Club, win or lose.
That might not be fair to Lee Westwood, who sits on a 2-shot lead and has his first major title in the crosshairs, but Tiger will once again be front and center as he seeks to end a five year winless run in the tournaments that matter most.
There’s also Hunter Mahan (-1) and Adam Scott (even) to consider, plus a handful of guys four or five shots behind who could make a run if they put together an almost unthinkable round of 66 or 67 on Sunday.
For the first time since his life exploded in November of 2009, Tiger is within two shots of the lead heading into the final round of a major championshp. He’s never won a major coming from behind, so he’ll literally be forced to do something he’s never done before in Sunday’s trip around Muirfield.
Number fifteen is within his grasp.
If he wins, he’s officially “back”, and the march towards Jack’s record of 18 major titles gets kick-started again.
If he doesn’t win on Sunday, Tiger has another swing and a miss to reflect on as he sits stalled at fourteen.
On a course playing as tough as Muirfield, it’s reasonable to think that Tiger might only need an under-par round on Sunday to claim the title. If he can get to two-under par, by virtue of a 70, that might very well do the trick. Westwood has posted consecutive under-par rounds (68-70) and even though he’s one of the game’s brightest stars, it’s almost unfair to think he can produce a third straight round of 70 or less. The course is just that difficult.
From the stand point of “deserving it”, no one in the field meets that criteria better than Lee Westwood. He has 24 career wins and has been a stalwart on the European Ryder Cup team for more than a decade now. He’s also been a terrific ambassador for the game of golf and always conducts himself appropriately regardless of the outcome.
If the Golf Gods have a heart, they’ll wake up Sunday morning and anoint Westwood the winner of his country’s national championship.
American Hunter Mahan has lodged himself among the leaders, again, but until he does it and hoists a major championship trophy, it’s sensible to just assume he isn’t going to get the job done. He was in the hunt at Merion last month, but poor play on the final day sealed his fate as he and Phil Mickelson failed to mount a charge on the back nine when Justin Rose captured the U.S. Open.
Someone could come from the group at +2 or +3, but they’d have to play an almost unreal round on Sunday and everyone above them would have to stink up the joint. Muirfield’s tough, yes, but it’s not unplayable. One of the three players under par should have enough game on Sunday to stay in red numbers.
Can Tiger do it?
Will he do it?
Well, he hasn’t “done it” since June of 2009. He’s had numerous chances at The Masters since then and a couple of brief flirtations with the PGA and the British Open before poor weekend play doomed him.
But, for the first time in a long, long while, Tiger Woods is part of the overnight discussion heading into the final round of a major championship.
Golf, for sure, is better for it.
Win or lose on Sunday, the story will be Tiger Woods.
Just like old times.
Just like old times?