2018 Tour Championship leaderboard: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy on top after stellar Round 3 scores
I have to confess, the 2018 Tour Championship might be over. Following Tiger Woods' 65 in the third round, it looks like he's finally going to get his first win post-comeback and hoist his first trophy in over five years. However, if he's caught on Sunday, there are probably only two golfers who can do it. And both of them have the juice to make it happen.
Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy shot a combined 6 under on Saturday, which on paper is pretty good at this tough course. Even more so considering they were playing in the final two pairings and came in at or around the lead. Unfortunately for them, Woods' 65 was not shot on paper. It was shot in real life, and now both Rose and McIlroy trail by three going into Sunday.
We've been here before, at least with McIlroy. He shot a 64 in the final round in 2016 to come from behind and get into a playoff before eventually winning that year's Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. The story for him this week has been the story for him for much of his career. He's hitting the hell out of the golf ball and can't get anything to fall on the greens. McIlroy is currently No. 1 in driving, No. 3 in approach shots and No. 23 in putting. If it does start falling, though -- even just for a 10-hole stretch -- he could definitely catch Big Cat.
Because he was the first one in at 9 under, McIlroy gets the Woods pairing in the final tee time of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season. That's an unfathomably good way to end the year, and McIlroy could certainly leverage the energy from that group into something special on Sunday.
Rose, who will be in the pairing behind those two, is playing some of the best golf he's played all season. He's No. 1 in the field from tee to green, but the putting numbers are not safe for your eyes. So maybe neither of them find a touch for Sunday, or maybe Woods just runs away and hides. But given Woods' insane (and possibly unsustainable) putting numbers through three rounds (he's gained over five strokes on the field), there is a scenario in which either McIlroy or Rose (or both) run him down before Sunday is over. It would be the tastiest appetizer for the Ryder Cup matches next week in Paris.
Four more takeaways on the third round of the Tour Championship.
1. Paul Casey owns East Lake? The Englishman (and European Ryder Cup member) shot a 66 on Saturday to slide into the top five. He's actually never finished outside the top five in his previous four Tour Championships. This seems like information I probably should have collected prior to making my "lock for top 10" picks before the event!
2. Tournament felt over: At a select few events, you can feel them ending as they're ending. That's what I experienced on Saturday afternoon with Woods' start. This was far different than anything he's done all season, and it felt like he was putting an arrow in the heart of the field with his front nine 30. I might be wrong about that -- wouldn't be the first time! -- but that was the sense I got as I watched both Woods and the rest of the field.
3. New No. 1: Your new No. 1 in the FedEx Cup rankings is the same as your No. 1 over the first two days. If the tournament ended after 54 holes, Woods would win the trophy, and Rose would take home $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup.
4. Ryder Cup check-in: American Ryder Cup golfers make up the final three in the field currently, and if you want to extend that out, there are six (!) U.S. players in the bottom half of this field at even par or worse. Conversely, the European team has four golfers in the top six and only one (Francesco Molinari) over par.
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