Tiger climbs into contention on quiet AT&T Saturday

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June 30, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

BETHESDA, Md. -- "Quiet please" took on a whole new meaning Saturday at the AT&T National.

And you got the feeling that's just the way Tiger Woods liked it.

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With spectators not allowed at Congressional Country Club after a powerful overnight storm swept through the area and left the course in shambles, Tiger Woods, who once owned a yacht named Privacy, took advantage of the eerie silence.

Woods shot 67 and is one shot back of Brendon de Jonge entering the final round of the AT&T National.

Spectators will be allowed back for the final round with players going off both tees in groups of three between 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. ET, and with Woods in position for his third win of the year expect a lot more noise Sunday.

"Whether we have thousands of people or we have a small handful of people out there, it doesn't change the execution of the shot," Woods said. "What does change is when I hole a shot like I did on 6, it's not going to be as loud today as it normally is."

If a Tiger chips in for birdie and no one is there to see it, does it still make a noise?

The only sound Saturday was the ball hitting the bottom of the plastic cup. It elicited a minor fist-pump from Woods and drew the quietest cheer you'll ever hear from a Tiger gallery with only a few dozen workers, club members and media following his group.

"I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that," said Van Pelt, who is tied for second with Woods. "I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf."

It showed. He matched Woods shot-for-shot with a 67 of his own.

Billy Hurley III was perhaps most impressive with the day's best score, a 66, that has the former Navy man and Annapolis resident another stroke behind Woods.

A victory by Hurley would be an incredible story, but the story on Saturday was Woods, who made three birdies in his first six holes and added another one on No. 10 before finishing bogey-free.

It some ways it was classic Tiger. He started moving day five shots back then put some moves on a Congressional course that played easier in the third round but by no means was easy.

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"[The gallery] wasn't something I was thinking about," Woods said. "I was just trying to play. This was a Saturday round. It was a chance to play myself into a tournament."

Now he has a chance to close one out, just like he did at Bay Hill and then Murifield Village earlier this year.

A victory here would be Woods' second in three trips to Congressional for the AT&T National -- he also won here in 2009, the last time the event was played here before taking a two-year hiatus so the course could be prepped for last year's U.S. Open.

Woods missed last year's U.S. Open because of injury, but this year's version of Congressional has played tougher.

The cut was higher than it was at the U.S. Open, and the winning score surely won't match Rory McIlroy's record-setting 16 under from a year ago.

With Woods' foundation running this event, Woods certainly has some input on the course setup. He likes his courses firm and fast and difficult and that's what he's had this week with Congressional playing two strokes over par the first two rounds and close to that again on Saturday.

Through the first three rounds, only 27 players have been able to break par. Jim Furyk wasn't one of them, but he did manage to find some calm in the quiet of Congressional during the third round.

"It was peaceful," he said. "But it's more fun when you get a reaction from the fans."

You can count on a noisy one if Tiger wins on Sunday.

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