BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) - For Tiger Woods it was a case of the good, the bad and the ugly on Saturday as he slipped six strokes behind surprise leader Victor Dubuisson of France after the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open.
The world number one said he “struggled all day with my swing a little bit” after a four-under-par 68 gave him a 15-under tally of 201 on a perfect day for scoring at the penultimate event of the European Tour season.
Three times Woods found himself up against a tree, he also had to take a free drop from a walkway before producing a birdie four out of the blue at the 18th but at the 10th he fashioned an escape shot that only the golfing greats can conjure.
With a tree directly blocking his route to the green, the 14-times major champion somehow managed to bend the ball 30 to 40 yards left to right with a short iron before it came to rest safely in the middle of the green.
Woods looked like Seve Ballesteros in his pomp when his swing was complete, leaning and arching his back to the left in exaggerated style with the club wrapped way round and over his shoulder.
“That was a good one considering the golf balls these days just don’t move as much as the old balata balls used to,” he said.
“To be able to slice it that much from that short a distance was pretty good.”
Woods came back down to earth with a painful bump at the next hole as he trapped two fingers of his right hand against a tree while following through on another escape attempt.
He could have done himself serious damage but said later it was nothing that anti-inflammatories could not cure.
Woods tangled with another tree at the 16th. This time he was completely stymied, unable to make much of a back swing, and
simply succeeded in bobbling the ball forward three to four feet.
He then produced another reminder of why he is the world’s top-ranked player, with his chip shot from the fringe of the green lipping out.
Woods waved his putter in the air and broke into a trademark toothy grin at the final hole after rolling in a 20-foot putt for birdie.
He may be six strokes behind the leader with 18 holes to go but do not discount arguably the game’s greatest player.
“I’ve just got to hang in there, I‘m not out of the tournament,” said Woods.
“Got to keep fighting - that’s the way I’ve always played.”
Editing by Tony Goodson