Even the best player in the world has an off day sometimes, and that was the case for Tiger Woods on Saturday in the third round of the Memorial Tournament at breezy Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
The five-time winner and defending champion shot a 7-over-par 79 in tough conditions, including a professional-high 8-over 44 on his opening nine. As a result, he'll be looking to regain positive momentum -- not a title -- on Sunday in his final tune-up for the upcoming U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
"It was a rough day," Woods said afterward through a PGA TOUR media official. "It was tough from beginning to end."
An early back-nine starter with Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson, Tiger began the third round at 1-over for the tournament. He started decently, parring the first two holes.
But once again, the 184-yard, downhill, par-3 12th hole gave him problems. Woods came up short in the front bunker, leaving him with a poor stance and a downhill lie. He had no chance to aim at the far-right pin so he played way left and the ball rolled off the back fringe. Tiger three-putted from 59 feet for a double bogey.
Woods steadied to par Nos. 13 and 14, then found more trouble at the uphill, 529-yard, par-5 15th. Following a good drive, he pulled a 5-wood way left of the green near the 16th hole, left his third shot short of the green, flopped his fourth shot off the front of the green and three-putted from 43 feet for a double-bogey.
He has yet to par No. 16 this week, playing it a combined 5-over-par.
Tiger nearly birdied the 187-yard, par-3 16th, leaving his long birdie putt from the front fringe just short of the cup. But he bogeyed the par-4 17th, then triple-bogeyed the uphill, 444-yard, par-4 18th.
At the latter, Tiger hit a good tee shot but came up 30 yards short from 165 yards with an 8-iron. The ball caught a gust of wind and rolled back down a slope. Woods tried to flop his third shot close to the pin but the ball trickled back down the hill, farther away than where he started. Faced with a tougher angle, Tiger pitched his fourth shot about five feet above the hole, then ran his putt 11 feet by and missed again for a triple bogey.
Tiger's previous high score for nine holes was 43, which he has shot three times in his career, most recently at the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship.
Woods regrouped to birdie the par-4 first and second holes, then added another birdie at the par-5 fifth. But a poor drive led to a bogey at the 447-yard, par-4 sixth. He parred the next two holes, missing an eight-foot birdie putt at the 164-yard, par-3 eighth.
But he bogeyed the 412-yard, par-4 ninth, missing the green left with his approach shot. He was unable to get up-and-down for par.
Tiger's worst 18-hole score as a professional came at the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland, where he posted a third-round 81 in awful weather conditions. Saturday's 79 equaled his highest previous score on TOUR, which was at the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship.
"It was a tough day," said Woods, a four-time winner this year. "I tried to fight back on the back nine, but just didn't quite materialize."
Tiger was hardly the only one to struggle. Playing partner Johnson recorded an 81.
"The conditions were tough, when I missed it cost me," said Woods. "I caught the wrong gusts at the wrong time, made a couple bad swings and all in all it just went the wrong way."
Tiger will begin fourth-round play on Sunday at 12:10 p.m., starting at No. 10 with Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño and Marc Leishman.