When not on the leaderboard or the action on the course Saturday, all eyes will be on the skies above Hazeltine National. (Photo: Edward M. Pio Roda, PGA.com)
Auclair's Live Blog: Saturday Reports from Hazeltine
Once again, PGA.com's T.J. Auclair has drawn the tough assignment. We're sending him out on the course all four days of the 91st PGA Championship to tell us what he sees, hears and thinks at Hazeltine National. We know, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Say "thank you," T.J.
Got a question or a comment for T.J.? Send him an email out on the course at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 PM CDT -- You'll be happy to know that I made it inside before getting completely drenched out there.
I made it the the Media Center just in time to see Tiger make an easy par on No. 18 to finish 54 holes at 8 under. With that, he'll take a two-shot lead over Y.E. Yang and Padraig Harrington into the final round.
Having followed Tiger through most of the day, I'd have to say it was a rather ho-hum round for the world No. 1. He had two birdies and one bogey for a 1-under 71. While it was ho-hum, it's also important to remember that any round under par on the weekend in a major championship is a keeper.
This tournament is far from over with four major champions –- Tiger, Harrington, Lucas Glover and Ernie Els -– all in the top 10. It will be an interesting Sunday.
Will someone step up and put up a low enough number to give Tiger something to think about over the closing holes?
The blog will start up at noon CDT tomorrow. Log on and follow along.
5:30 PM CDT -- A weather warning has just been posted on the leaderboard just to the right of the 16th fairway. That means this blogger is scrambling back to the Media Center to take cover.
It's starting to rain out here again and as much as I love blogging, I'm not willing to risk getting zapped because I have an iPhone where it's not allowed for mere mortals -- inside the ropes at a golf tournament!
It's another bogey for Vijay, who failed to get up and down at 16. Tiger made a great par, getting up and down from behind the green.
I'll catch the rest of this inside.
5:15 PM CDT -- The sky is darkening out here on the 16th tee and there have also been a few rumbles of thunder off in the distance that got the attention of Tiger after his third shot and eventual par on the par-5 15th.
4:55 PM CDT -- The first full-fledged Tiger fist-pump of the 91st PGA Championship just happened on No. 14.
On the short par 4, Tiger sent his drive through the green. His second shot from the rough rolled through the green and came to rest on the collar up against the rough. He was clearly disgusted.
Rather than follow it up with another lousy shot like us hackers might do, he deftly bellied a wedge into the cup for an unlikely birdie and a one-shot lead. While the crowds screamed in approval, Tiger hammered a fist pump.
For Vijay, it was another three-putt bogey. I just overheard David Feherty say Vijay is putting as though he's just been tasered by a state trooper.
Yes, it's that bad.
4:30 PM CDT -- Have you ever heard of a guy named Ernie Els? Talk about a blast from the recent past! The three-time major champion and former full-time major contender has come out of hibernation this week and is only one shot behind Tiger after a birdie on No. 16.
Tiger isn't running away from the field quite like he did Friday, but the pack is certainly closing the gap. Consistency is always Tiger's greatest asset. He hasn't yet dazzled today, but he hasn't made any real costly mistakes either.
Tiger and Vijay are playing the 13th hole now. A roar just erupted on the adjacent 14th hole and the chatterboxes around me are claiming an eagle by Harrington up ahead to tie Tiger for the lead. It's probably time for one of those famous editor notes from JB to confirm or deny the eagle rumors.
JB? Are you awake?
Editor's Note: Not only am I awake, I am absolutely enthralled by what I'm seeing unfold before us. Just when it looked like we were headed for a snoozer of a Sunday, all of sudden we're set up for a fantastic finish. As for the rumors of an eagle by Paddy on the 14th, they are false. Any good reporter would know to check the facts before admitting to his editor that he doesn't know what's going on around him. It was a birdie, which pulled Ireland's favorite son into a tie with Mr. Woods. Talk about someone being asleep!
4 PM CDT -- From Cassandra Hutchinson in Oak Park, Ill.:
"I am anticipating that Tiger will maintain his lead into the final round. Who do you thinks looks solid enough at the middle of the 3rd round to have enough mental endurance to be in the final group tomorrow?"
In all honesty, I think you could flip a coin between Vijay, Paddy and Glover, who are all proven major winners.
Vijay's shaky putter so far today is a big concern. Over on the ninth green he missed his second putt of the day inside of 6 feet. You can't win any kind of a tournament with a balky putter.
The majority of the scoring has been done on the front nine this week. If form holds today, everyone will need to work their butts off on the back nine here just to stay where they're at.
I do think it would be poetic justice to see a final pairing of Tiger and Paddy. After all, Paddy won both the majors Tiger missed in 2008.
-- Thought you'd like to know there's been a kayak sighting behind the 10th green. The man is armed with a camera, too. I'm impressed with his determination and he's certainly getting some shots no one else will have -- unless the kayak flips over when the wind picks up. That's something the "land-locked" photogs need not worry about.
-- As for the action on No. 10, that putter just cost Vijay again. He made a three-putt bogey to Tiger's par.
Up ahead there was a roar for another Harrington birdie and now he's just one shot behind Tiger at 6 under.
Editor's Note: How many emails does that make for Cassandra now? Four, five, six? Looks like someone is gunning for your job, Mr. Blogger. You'd better step it up!
3:40 PM CDT -- I should have mentioned it before now, but that little bit of rain lasted a mere 5 minutes at the most and now it seems like the sun is working extra hard to peek through the clouds.
After two pars on the par-3 eighth, we're up by the ninth green, where thousands more have joined the circus.
In case you're wondering, I haven't seen any beverage carts today. I'm sure they're out and about, but I can't see anything that's outside the ropes because of the masses tagging along for the Saturday stroll.
I did just catch a glimpse of the big leaderboard and noticed Harrington and Glover just two behind at 5 under.
What will the back nine bring? Let's go find out!
3:15 PM CDT -- After that world-class bogey on No. 6, Vijay just made a miraculous eagle with a 40-foot chip in on No. 7.
Tiger had to settle for par after a poor third shot.
The crowds went bonkers when Vijay chipped in and he pumped his fist in excitement and appreciation.
Vijay is only three behind Tiger now and he's not one of those players you expect to fade away.
3 PM CDT -- The first of the rain drops have begun to fall at Hazeltine. It's a very light spit at the moment.
Vijay just missed a short birdie putt at No. 5 and his tee shot with an iron at No. 6 hooked so fast it rattled around the trees and just barely fell into the start of the fairway.
He's so far back there I'm pretty sure the sprinkler head read, "Just hit it far!" instead of actually providing a yardage.
2:45 PM CDT -- I caught up to Tiger on th par-3 fourth hole, just in time to see a power lip-out that sent his par putt zipping 2 feet past the hole before deciding to stop. That one really got the attention of the galleries as Tiger walked off with bogey to fall back to 7 under and now a three-shot lead.
Vijay narrowly missed his birdie try on the left edge and tapped in for par to stay at 3 under.
The crowds following this twosome are by far the biggest I've seen this week and that's really saying something. The galleries are pretty much swallowing up these holes.
What a day to see some great golf up close! That is if you follow any group but this one!
2 PM CDT -- I just ran back into the media center as Tiger was teeing off, so I'm a little behind at the moment.
The PGA of America just honored writing legend and best-selling author Dan Jenkins, who is covering his 201st major championship this week. As part of the celebration, Jenkins held a press conference recalling tournaments he's covered through the years. He said Tiger Woods ranks fifth on his all-time best list behind No. 1 Ben Hogan; No. 2 Bobby Jones; No. 3 Byron Nelson; and No. 4 Sam Snead. Jenkins had Jack Nicklaus at No. 6.
The best line of the Jenkins press conference?
"When I die, I want my tombstone to say, 'I knew this was gonna happen.'"
Now it's time to get back to the golf, where I see Tiger has already picked up a birdie. That came at the second hole and he's now 8 under and four shots clear of Lucas Glover. The skies outside are still pretty dark, but no rain has fallen just yet.
1:15 PM CDT -- From Sue Nissley in parts unknown:
"What is the tie breaker used that put Vijay in the final group with Tiger? Thanks!"
Good observation, Sue. Since several players are tied for second at 3 under, how is it that Vijay was the one who wound up with Tiger? It's because of the "first in, last out" rule.
What does that mean, you're wondering?
It means that the first player to post a low score on a Friday or Saturday wins the tiebreak, so to speak, to have a later tee time the next afternoon.
Since Vijay was the first of the five players to get in the clubhouse at 3 under on Friday, he earned the spot in today's final pairing with Tiger.
Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, was the last player to post his 3 under score on Friday, which means he and Ross Fisher -- who also finished late in the second round -- will be the earliest of the players at 3 under to tee off this afternoon.
They have the second-to-last tee time at 1:22 PM CDT.
1 PM CDT -- Moments after that last post, Tiger made his way to the range, walking along the bridge that leads down from the practice green to the range.
Thousands yelled out Tiger's name as he nestled into a spot beside Vijay on the range. Someone whispered to me, "Here comes God."
Armed with two large buckets of golf balls, Tiger started out with a wedge. Taking a soft, quarter-swing with his first two shots, Tiger stopped the ball within six inches of a flag roughly 30 yards from him, to the delight of the masses. After two shots, I'd say he's pretty dialed in.
Meanwhile, down the range, Padraig is working on his tempo by hitting one-handed drives better than most good players strike it with two hands.
Lucas Glover's caddy has been standing with the U.S. Open champ's golf bag in the middle of the range, waiting on his man for about 25 minutes now ... As I wrote that, Lucas just now showed up.
12:45 PM CDT -- Hanging out on the range right now. Vijay is going off with Tiger in an hour and he's on the range beating balls beside England's Ross Fisher, who contended in both the U.S. and British Opens.
Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are all on the other side of the range, while, by the massive crowds, it appears Tiger is up the hill on the practice green.
Today is so different from the first two days, it's insane. After being in a sauna for rounds one and two it's actually a little chilly with the breeze out here now.
It reminds me of when I was here for the PGA Championship in 2002, wearing thick pants and a sweater almost every day.
Noon CDT -- Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Day 3 of the 91st PGA Championship Live Blog.
We're starting later today and tomorrow for a couple of reasons, the most important being that most of you are home for the weekend and no longer need me to help you procrastinate in your cubicle. However, I still want to keep you informed and entertained, so let's start this baby up!
Here are my thoughts as we wait for the leaders to tee off at 1:40 p.m. CDT: There's a better chance that the sun won't rise on Monday morning than Tiger Woods blowing a four-shot lead. Technically, this thing isn't over yet; there are still 36 holes to play. Realistically, how could Tiger lose?
No disrespect to those trailing Tiger -– the likes of Vijay Singh, Lucas Glover and Padraig Harrington, who are all major champions and tied for second –- but come on. Does anyone, even for a split second, believe Tiger can be taken down?
The great equalizer for the weekend is going to be the weather. I've got to tell you, the forecast suggests that we're OK until after 5 o'clock this evening, but the ominous skies hovering over Hazeltine right now lead me to believe otherwise. The rain doesn't concern me, as they'll continue to play when and if it arrives. It's the thunderstorms that could bring the tournament to a screeching halt. Again, the forecast says were OK for right now, but the skies are dark here and is that wind ever howling!
This wind feels like the British Open kind that we never truly experienced last month at Turnberry.
I've got to think the harder the course plays, the more it favors Tiger. And that doesn't bode well for the field, which is already spotting him four shots.
So, kick your feet up on the couch -– laptop on nearby coffee or end-table, of course -– and enjoy the action.
As usual, feel free to give me a laugh out on the course, or leave a comment or question, by sending your emails to: email@example.com.