Tiger Woods toils in the rain but can still aim for the sky at the Open

It was a foul day in Carnoustie, the kind that makes the locals crack jokes about the Scottish summer. This was the weather you remember from family holidays, the sort you stay out in only if you can fool yourself into thinking it is not all that bad. Tiger Woods suffered the worst of it, and it looked like he was trying to persuade himself he was enjoying it, too.

Woods never seems like he is having all that much fun on the course. He might smile when he has made a birdie but otherwise he makes golf look a grim and serious business. On Friday he was scowling like a man who has run for the bus then found out he has not got the fare.

The crowd, though, light up wherever he goes. There is not a more popular player in the field this week. Even his partner Russell Knox, who is from Inverness, was not getting half the support that Woods was. The American says the cheers are a little louder than even he is used to.

“You know, it’s incredible,” he said after his round. “Obviously I’ve played well in Scotland, and I haven’t played in the Open Championship for a couple of years. It’s fantastic to have the support we’ve had. For as many people that came out in the rain today to support us, it’s very appreciated.”

The Open 2018: Third round tee times

9.15am BST Gavin Green (Mal)
9.25am Rhys Enoch (Wal), Patrick Reed (US)
9.35am Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Justin Rose (Eng)
9.45am Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
9.55am Ross Fisher (Eng), Keegan Bradley (US)

10.05am Ryan Fox (NZ), Jason Dufner (US)
10.15am Bryson DeChambeau (US), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
10.25am Tom Lewis (Eng), Sam Locke a (Sco)
10.35am Paul Casey (Eng), Chris Wood (Eng)
10.45am Bernhard Langer (Ger), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Sp)
11am Paul Dunne (Ire), Brett Rumford (Aus)

11.10am Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
11.20am Cameron Smith (Aus), Brendan Steele (USA)
11.30am Marc Leishman (Aus), Lee Westwood (Eng)
11.40am An Byeong-hun (Kor), Kevin Na (US)
11.50am Julian Suri (US), Adam Hadwin (Can)
Midday Gary Woodland (US), Kim Si-woo (Kor)

 Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn)
12.20pm Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Thomas Pieters (Bel)
12.30pm Beau Hossler (US), Li Haotong (Chn)
12.45pm Cameron Davis (Aus), Sean Crocker (US)
12.55pm Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Stewart Cink (US)

1.05pm Phil Mickelson (US), Austin Cook (US)
1.15pm Shaun Norris (SA), Tiger Woods (US)
1.25pm Lucas Herbert (Aus), Michael Kim (US)
1.35pm Jason Day (Aus), Francesco Molinari (It)
1.45pm Kang Sung-hoon (Kor), Webb Simpson (US)
1.55pm Patrick Cantlay (US), Eddie Pepperell (Eng)

2.05pm Matthew Southgate (Eng), Brooks Koepka (US)
2.15pm Kyle Stanley (US), Adam Scott (Aus)
2.30pm Charley Hoffman (US), Alex Norén (Swe)
2.40pm Ryan Moore (US), Brandon Stone (SA)
2.50pm Luke List (US), Danny Willett (Eng)
3pm Thorbjørn Olesen (Den), Rickie Fowler (US)

3.10pm Jordan Spieth (US), Kevin Chappell (US)
3.20pm Zander Lombard (SA), Tony Finau (US)
3.30pm Matt Kuchar (US), Erik Van Rooyen (SA)
3.40pm Rory McIlroy (NI), Xander Schauffele (US)
3.50pm Pat Perez (US), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
4pm Kevin Kisner (US), Zach Johnson (US)

Sometimes, though, it all gets a bit much. Like at the 2nd, where Woods’s tee shot flew wide right, and fetched up in thick rough on the downslope of a bank on the edge of the fairway. It was a lie that would make Donald Trump blush. Woods sized it up while the crowd gathered around, eager to catch a glimpse. He decided to have his caddie Joe LaCava order them back, back and back again. They were sure there was a line there somewhere. LaCava clearly wanted everyone to clear right out, but the bunch up ahead were as thick as flies, some thicker, and would not budge.

So LaCava shrugged, and Woods set himself to attempt this preposterous shot off the slope and over their heads. The bank was so steep that, since he was standing at the foot of it, he was almost taking a baseball swing at the thing. The ball flew ankle high into a thicket of fans 30 yards ahead, seemed to ricochet off a couple of shins and knees and then rolled back out into the rough. “I kept moving them back. If you noticed, I moved them back about 40 yards,” Woods said later. “Yeah, I was very, very fortunate that it got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Still, Woods dropped one shot there, despite a superb approach and a fine long putt that left him a tap-in. Then he followed up by dropping another at the 3rd, where he overhit a birdie putt and left himself a tricky second coming back from 6ft, which stopped on the lip. So Woods was two over through three, and dropping down the leaderboard. “Not exactly the best start,” he said. And then, a little of the old magic. He recovered both the dropped shots with back-to-back birdies at the 4th and 5th, one with a putt from 9ft and another with a putt from twice that.

After the second of them, Woods even skipped a little hitch-kick in celebration. Then, just when it looked like weather would break, everything took a turn for the worse and the rain came harder than ever. Woods was wayward off the tee at both the next two holes, and had to play out of the rough. So he was back scrambling. He dropped a shot at the 9th when his chip in stopped 5ft shy and he took two putts. He picked it up again with a birdie at the 11th, where he walked his putt in after a fine approach. Then he made another birdie at the par-five 14th, where he hit a superb five iron on to the front of the green.

Woods might have made an eagle there but the putt just missed on the right. The same thing happened when he had another birdie opportunity on 18. In between the two, there was another bogey at 16. So he finished the day in even par, again, with four bogeys and four birdies. “I played a little bit better yesterday,” he said. “Today wasn’t quite as good but I finally birdied the par five. So that’s a positive. Right now I’m six back, and by day’s end, I think I’ll be more than that. It will be a pretty packed leaderboard, and I’m certainly right there in it.” He figures the leaderboard is so tight that there will be 10 men in contention come Sunday.

He will need to play better than this on Saturday if he’s going to be one of them.

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