PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — When Joe LaCava sent Tiger Woods a text last night, Tiger got the message.
After a poor putting performance on Friday and getting up-and-down on just eight of 15 times that Tiger missed a green in regulation, LaCava’s text said he needed 10 extra minutes of chipping and 10 extra minutes for putting.
“Hint, hint,” LaCava said.
“You can’t keep him on his feet for that long, right?” he continued. “I don’t want him on his feet for an hour and a half before he even plays, I get it. He needs to save himself for the round. But he’s trying so hard to get healthy that he hasn’t had enough attention to his short game. I said to him, ‘You’ve played two competitive rounds since May at the PGA.’ Those were at St. Andrews. I’m not beating him up. I’d expect him to be rusty but now that we’re here we’ve got to get after it.”
Tiger took LaCava’s text to heart and was on the green to practice.
“I got there early and Joey was nowhere to be found,” Tiger said with a smile.
“I was here,” LaCava said to set the record straight. “But I was elated. He was here even before I wanted him to.”
Whether that extra practice was the difference, who’s to say, but Tiger signed for a nifty 4-under 67 in the third round, his best score in the 12 rounds since he returned to competition last year at the Masters.
A day after Woods had lost 1.699 strokes to the field, he gained more than a stroke and was 5 for 6 in saving par when he missed a green. The highlight with the short stick? A 28-foot birdie putt at 14 that he raised his putter a good 5 feet before it dropped in the hole. There was never a doubt. And seeing the Tiger trademark putter raise never gets old.
Tiger is feeling it early in Round 3.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 18, 2023
“I’ve always been a person who likes to hook my putts, so I just tried to feel like I went back to releasing the putter blade more, more right hand, more release. I just hate that blocky feeling which I had yesterday, which I can’t stand,” he said.
Woods nearly had an albatross at the par-5 first, but that eagle and a birdie at the fifth had him 5 under for the day. Only a bogey at No. 7 marred a special performance. He finished at 3-under 210 in a tie for 26th and a good 12 strokes behind Jon Rahm.
Genesis: Sunday tee times
Tiger noted ahead of the tournament he and LaCava had not worked together in Florida ahead of the tournament as they typically do.
“He kind of surprised me mid-week last week that he was thinking about it. I didn’t realize he was this close,” LaCava said.
Did he expect Tiger’s swing to be generating such speed already?
“No,” he said. “He told me about it. I’m not calling him a liar but my thought was I’ll believe it when I see it.”
He has seen it, all right. Tiger isn’t lacking in the distance department this week. Matthias Schwab, who along with Christiaan Bezuidenhout made up a threesome with Tiger, said, “Chris and I were talking about it, he outdrove us on almost every hole, which was a little bit sure surprising.”
As LaCava waited for Tiger to wrap up his media obligations, Harris English walked by and congratulated LaCava for a job well done on moving day.
“Just getting out of the way,” LaCava said. “That’s what I do best.”