Tiger needs a Hail Mary on Sunday to keep his Playoffs alive

September 11, 2010
Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor

LEMONT, Ill. -- Will Sunday be the last time we see Tiger Woods playing a PGA TOUR event in the United States this year?

Perhaps. The two-time and defending FedExCup champion has left himself no room for error in terms of advancing to the final stage of this year's PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.

Woods will go into Sunday's final round of the BMW Championship needing to complete golf's version of the Hail Mary pass. He will need a miracle. It's either go low or go home.


"Looks like probably 61, 62 might have to be the number," Woods said after shooting a 3-under 68 on Saturday. He was not joking. His tone was deadly serious.

Of course, Woods was talking about the number he needs to possibly win the BMW Championship. He's not thinking about the number needed just to finish in the top five, which would get him a spot inside the top 30 who advance to THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.

He isn't giving up hope that he can defend the title that he won by eight strokes here a year ago. Now, at even par for the tournament, he'll go into the final round eight strokes behind the leaders -- and needing to make up six strokes just to get inside the top five on the leaderboard and keep his Playoffs alive.

"Guys aren't running away with the tournament," Woods said. "The greens are not good enough to do that. So we'll see what happens."

It seems like an impossible task given the fact that Cog Hill, due to those greens that suffered from Chicago's hot summer, has not handed out many low scores this week. It also seems impossible given that Woods has not exactly been tearing it up this year, and is still in transition mode with a new swing change.

Tiger, Phil paired on Sunday
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be paired together for the 25th time at a PGA TOUR event when they tee off at 11:56 a.m. ET in Sunday's final round of the BMW Championship.

Both players are at even par for the tournament, eight shots behind leader Ryan Moore.

This is the first round that Woods and Mickelson have been paired together since the final round of the 2009 Masters.

Click here for more on the pairing

But he has shown signs of life in the Playoffs. He shot a opening-round 65 at The Barclays. He shot a second-round 65 last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

And he's got good vibes at Cog Hill. Last year, he shot a third-round 62 en route to crushing the field.

Of course, so much has changed for Tiger -- both on and off the course -- in the last 12 months that it's difficult to expect that kind of score Sunday.

On the flip side, the opportunity is there. The opportunity for Tiger to produce his signature round of the year.

"I'm trying to play myself into contention in the event," Woods said. "If I win the event, everything is taken care of. That's what I was trying to do today.

"I was trying to shoot 6-, 7-under par today. I thought that would be a good number to at least give me a chance at it tomorrow."

Instead, he needed three birdies in his last six holes just to shoot 3 under.

Tiger knows that playing competitively while trying to make a swing change is not an ideal combination. He doesn't get the practice time he really needs to implement the change. In fact, on Friday night, he was working on his swing inside his room.

But he also feels like he's made significant progress the last few weeks, that he's headed in the right direction.

"I'm hitting shots that are just so flush and so clean," he said.

He will need to hit a lot of those kinds of shots on Sunday. He will need to find the right speed on the greens and roll in a lot of putts. He will need to play like he did a year ago.

And if he doesn't? Well, then it will likely be the end of the line for his 2010 TOUR season in the U.S. He'll still have the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China, in November. There's the Ryder Cup, of course, in Wales, having been selected as a captain's pick earlier this week. And he's committed to play an event in Australia, the JBWere Masters.

But his reign as FedExCup champion will be over.

As of now, though, he's not ready to concede.

"No one is really making a lot of putts out there," he said. "It just means you have to hit the ball close. Hopefully I can give myself 18 looks at it and see what happens."

Eighteen looks. One more round to keep his Playoffs alive. It's do-or-die time for Tiger.