Golf: The Open - Tiger suffers as big game eludes big names

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The Independent Online
TIGER WOODS has a strategy for taming the beast and a novel one it is too. No matter that this is the longest - at 7,361 yards - Open course in history, Woods leaves his woods in the bag and on almost every tee hits an iron.

Going for accuracy rather than length, Tiger clearly believes that softly, softly catches the claret jug. In the third round yesterday the links were alive with the tasty prospect of the dream pairing, the Tiger and the Great White Shark. Perhaps they would inspire each other and treat the beast as Craig Parry had done earlier in the day. Unfortunately, it did not work out like that.

As if to protect their jugulars, polo-neck sweaters were the order of the day for the world number one and the former number one. Woods was in all black, which tended to match his par figures. He was not gun slinging yesterday. "He's playing too conservatively," said one of his minders, adding that it would be a different story in the final round today.

Whenever he plays in the Open Woods is protected by a group of enthusiasts from the Army Golf Society. It is an honorary role, but in return Tiger gives them items from his extensive golf wardrobe. How come that streaker got through the cordon at the 18th the other day? "We let her," said one. "She was no security threat."

Otherwise, Carnoustie is an ornithological wasteland. No albatrosses, only the odd sighting of an eagle and not many more birdies. It is not often that Woods is in a birdie-free zone but yesterday he was. At least Norman picked up a few, but he was more erratic off the tee. The Australian began with a birdie but immediately gave the shot back at the second. Woods refused to throw caution to the winds, perhaps understandably so with only the Frenchman Jean van de Velde, who qualified for the championship, making a serious impression on the leaderboard.

There are only two par fives, the sixth and the 14th. Woods didn't birdie either, Norman birdied both. At 578 yards, the sixth is one of the beast's claws. Nevertheless, Tiger took an iron off the tee and then attempted to punch a low shot up the middle. He ran out of fairway, which is not difficult considering that it is about as wide as a wasp's waist.

Woods thumped his club into the ground and swore. Out loud. He was still short of the green after his third shot, but then executed a lovely little pitch shot, exploiting the bank at the back of the green and allowing his ball to run back towards the flag. He made the putt to save par. However, the seventh green hurt them both. Norman needed a five footer to save par and never looked like making it. Twice he backed off the putt, a sure sign that he was extremely uncomfortable with it. Woods, from slightly longer, also missed to record his first bogey.

Both players had started the day at four over par, and both went to the turn in 37, one over. Norman dropped a shot at the 10th after finding a bunker off the tee and another at the 12th. The shark was finding sand with alarming regularity. Woods, meanwhile, had a great chance to record his first birdie at the 14th but missed from six feet.

But it was the penultimate hole that proved a major setback to both players. Woods recorded a double bogey six after missing the fairway with a three wood off the tee, compounding the error by three putting. Norman escaped with a bogey five after finding the Barry Burn with his tee shot. After taking a penalty drop, he hit his third into a bunker from where he played a miraculous shot. The ball pitched about 10 feet past the flag, spun back and very nearly rolled into the hole.

The huge galleries following this two ball had little to cheer about. At least Woods recovered from the double bogey on the 17th to finish with a par four, which is more than can be said for the Great White Shark. Another wayward tee shot put the Australian in trouble and his seven-foot putt to save par slid by the hole. Norman finished with a 75, to stand at eight over par. He had three birdies and seven bogeys. Woods did not manage a single birdie and had one bogey and one double bogey to finish with a 74.

At seven over par for the tournament he does not believe that his first Open is beyond his reach although if Van de Velde maintains his impression of the great escape the American has a huge job on his hands. "The way it's worked out means that I'll be three or four groups ahead of the leaders in the final round and that's perfect," Woods said. "I'll be finished when they're playing 16, 17 and 18 and if I can post a good score you never know what might happen. I think that even somebody on 10 over has a good shot.

"I'm still in the hunt although I'll have to play a great round of golf. This course is so penal you can make pars and still pick up shots. It's a wonderful test of golf and I appreciate this course, but it's a pity they took out a lot of the gamble by making the fairways so narrow."

It is the tightness of the fairways that has prevented Woods, and others, from using their driver. Asked if he would be more aggressive in the fourth round, he replied: "I'd like to say yes but then you look at the waist- high rough so you can't be too aggressive. I've got to be more precise and create more legitimate birdie chances. I made a lot of putts, it's just that they were for pars. Every hole is a potential bogey, although conditions were definitely easier. I think they've cut the rough or flattened it."