James Lawton: Cautious Woods still hunting for the old Tiger

The former world No 1 is still in the mix for the Claret Jug, but this is a different vintage from years past

Royal Lytham

Whatever Tiger Woods wins in his second career – his second lifetime as a contender for the mythic title of the greatest golfer of all time – it may not be too soon to consider what he has lost, and maybe forever.

It was at least a possibility that could not be ignored in the playing of the par-five 11th hole yesterday by Woods and then Adam Scott, the 32-year-old Australian, who in the course of it opened up a five-shot lead in his attempt to win his first major title to set against the 14 already gathered in by a man just four years his senior.

It was not the scoring, which saw Scott denied an eagle by the barest margin and the Tiger always giving himself too much to do to glean a birdie, but the profound difference in their strategies.

Really, it was a gulf. Scott slugged a drive with immense power and control. The Tiger once more elected to go with an iron. Scott powered his second shot beyond the pin. Woods was well short of the green. Even after the years of crisis, the convulsions in his life and the disruptions brought by injury, it did seem like another small defeat among many.

Perhaps the new and more cautious Woods will eke out the victories that will get him past Jack Nicklaus's record total of 18 majors, because certainly he has produced moments of the old brilliance over the last few days – and not least yesterday when he followed his sublime chip out of a bunker on the 18th on Friday night with a stunning 50ft putt on the sixth.

But if it should happen, there is one near-certainty: it is not likely to be in the fashion that Tiger's most ardent admirers imagined when they first argued it was inevitable, such was the depth of his talent, that he regained most, if not all, of the lost terrain.

It was a brave scenario coloured by all the years of glory, the surges of brilliance, the recurring sense that he could find a way to win and play some of the most improbable shots ever seen, in a way beyond the power of any of his rivals.

For the moment, though, it seems like so much wishful, even sentimental thinking, despite the fact that Woods, having dropped two shots in the first four holes yesterday, produced three birdies in four holes and by the 14th was again just four shots off the lead after Scott made his first bogey of the day on the 13th.

Could the Tiger exploit the possibility of the first doubts of Scott, the man buoyed by the zealous backing of Woods's former caddie Steve Williams and absolute confidence in the broom-handle putter they may soon provoke moves for its abolition?

Plainly, it remains a matter for fierce speculation going into the last day on a course which first persuaded Woods that he was ready for the challenge of the professional game as a 20-year-old in 1996.

But then, if it happens, it will be a triumph not for the old Tiger, the ultimate prowler of the game, but the new pragmatic figure who prides himself not so much in his instinct for supreme invention but his capacity to operate a plan.

Going into the third round he declared: "Overall I'm very pleased at where I'm at. I'm in the mix. It's going to be a good weekend. I figured I had a game plan that would fit well in this golf course and I figured I could execute it. I've done it so far on the golf course. It's a matter of patience – and I'm also hitting the fairways, and that's also the thing you have to do around this course."

Woods's patience came under new pressure when he dropped a shot on the 15th and then left a long putt for birdie grievously short on the 17th. On Friday that last glorious chip not only invited new hopes that he might indeed be moving to end the barren years, it also offered that old image of someone who could conjure remarkable deeds at the most unlikely moments.

It meant that he came to the first tee yesterday with a considerable amount of restored aura. Some of it was squandered in the carelessness of the early holes – and some more of it dissipated still further when he repeatedly reached for an iron and his battleplan of attrition.

But then, of course, there does remain quite a bit of credit – and the chance that not all of it will be truly exhausted when he concludes, win or lose, his mission to pass the Nicklaus mark, something that not so long ago appeared to be the last word in formality.

His last gesture yesterday came on the 18th fairway, a second shot which set up the possibility of another dramatic flourish at the end of one more draining shift. The long putt failed and, naturally, he sighed. Sometimes, he might have been saying, patience is not all it is cracked up to be.

Brit watch: How the others fared on a day the home guard fell away

Luke Donald (209 -1)

The world No 1 still insists that he can win his first major even though he only shot a 71 to be 10 shots behind.He said: "I am probably too far back, but I will go out and give it my all."

Paul Lawrie (212 +2)

After shooting a 76 he will need a repeat of his 1999 Carnoustie miracle, when he started the final round 10 shots behind but still lifted the Claret Jug.

Matthew Baldwin (211 +1)

The 26-year-old European Challenge Tour graduate from nearby Southport produced a third-round 69 on his Open debut and said that if he had putted better he could have been six under.

Jamie Donaldson (212 +2)

The recent winner of the Irish Open failed to find the magic touch on the greens which saw him mug Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell in their Royal Portrush backyard.

Simon Dyson (212 +2)

Still struggling to refind his touch after missing Wentworth through injury and losing his caddie, Guy Tilston, to Marcel Siem, who recently won the French Open with the experienced bagman.

Ian Poulter (213 +3)

On a bad day, Poulter appeared to have a row with his long-time caddie Terry Munday on the 14th tee and walked off with no comment after making two double bogeys in the next four holes for a 73.

Lee Slattery (216 +6)

Playing in front of his home crowd, Slattery shot a disappointing 75. He blamed a headache which failed to react to painkillers and faster greens on the third day for his failure to make a move.

Martin Laird (221 +11)

After four double bogeys in an error-strewn 82 the US-based Scot breezed past the waiting reporters saying: "No thanks, guys".

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week