Tiger Woods is four strokes behind Charlie Wi entering the final round of golf’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he’s paired with Phil Mickelson as he seeks his first U.S. PGA Tour win since November of 2009.
Woods is tied for third place at 11-under par, trailing Wi and Ken Duke, who’s 12 under through three rounds at the tournament in Pebble Beach, California. Wi and Duke are both looking for their first win, while Woods has 71 PGA Tour titles, one behind Jack Nicklaus for the third-most in history.
“That’s why I train as hard as I do and practice as hard as I do is to put myself in those positions,” said Woods, who overcame a five-shot final-round deficit to win the 2000 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “Of late, I’ve been putting myself in these positions, and it feels good.”
Woods, 36, is making his PGA Tour season debut two weeks after finishing third in his opening event of 2012 in Abu Dhabi, where he entered the final round tied for the lead with winner Robert Rock. Woods in December ended a 749-day winless drought with a victory in the Chevron World Challenge, a limited-field event he hosts in California.
Woods will start today in the next-to-last group with Mickelson, a three-time Pro-Am winner who’s tied for fourth place at 9-under par. It’s the 30th time Woods and Mickelson will be paired together in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
“On this golf course, you can come out and get a quick start, make some birdies and when that happens, it’s tough to follow suit, a few groups behind,” said Mickelson, who won the tournament in 1998, 2005 and 2007. “So I’m in a nice situation where if I can get a hot hand early, I can make a run on the leaderboard.”
Kevin Na, Brendon Todd, Hunter Mahan and Dustin Johnson, the 2009 and 2010 Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner, are tied with Mickelson, whose last victory was the 2011 Houston Open.
Mickelson’s 12 wins in multi-course PGA Tour events are the most of any active player, one more than Woods. This week, the professionals and amateurs rotated among three courses -- Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill golf course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course -- the first three days before the pros play today’s final round at Pebble Beach.
Woods fired a 5-under-par 67 yesterday at Pebble Beach and has an average score of 68.4 in 10 rounds at the course in the Pro-Am, including an average of 67 in the final round. When he last won the tournament in 2000, his victory over Matt Gogel came four months before he went on to post a 15-shot win in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Wi’s average score at Pebble Beach in his six previous final rounds at the Pro-Am is 74.25.
“He’s won 70-some times and I’m trying to get my first, so I have a lot more pressure on me than he does,” Wi, the winner of the 1990 California State Amateur at Pebble Beach, said of Woods. Wi, 40, last won a professional event at the 2006 Malaysian Open and is winless in 162 PGA Tour starts.
“I’m sure I’ll be fighting my demons all day and it’s how I handle myself,” said Wi, who opened the tournament with a 9-under 61 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club and followed it up with rounds of 69 at Pebble Beach and Spyglass. “It’s not what other players are doing. How I handle myself is going to be the outcome of the tournament.”
Wi and his amateur partner tied for fourth in the Pro-Am portion of the tournament, seven shots behind winners Padraig Harrington fellow Irishman J.P. McManus. Woods and his partner, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, tied for 15th place.