Scheffler leads, Tiger pleased with health at Hero


NASSAU, Bahamas — Scottie Scheffler made two eagles on Saturday in his round of 7-under 65 that gave the No. 1 player in the world another chance to win the Hero World Challenge. Tiger Woods will be around at the end, but only to hand out the trophy.

Scheffler was never seriously out of position until the end of his round. He saved par on the 16th hole but dropped his lone shot on the 18th at Albany, giving him a three-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick, who also had a 65.

Scheffler contending at Woods’ tournament in the Bahamas is nothing new — he has been runner-up to Viktor Hovland each of the last two years. Woods being out of the mix is also not unusual, mainly because he typically is recovering from injuries.

This is his fifth time playing in the Bahamas, and only once has he finished within 10 shots of the winner. This year figures to be no exception. Woods was over par on the back nine for the third straight round, having to settle for a 71 that left him 16 shots behind Scheffler.

Then again, this isn’t just about the golf. Woods is coming back from another surgery that kept him out of golf for nearly eight months. Sunday would be the first time he plays a 72-hole tournament since Riviera in February.

He said he has experienced no soreness in his ankle, just other areas of his body, and those have recovered better than expected after each round.

“I still have game,” Woods said. “It’s whether or not the body can do it. I’m very pleasantly surprised at how I’ve recovered every day. My activations in the gym have been good.”

The golf has been a mixture.

Woods opened with two straight bogeys, rallied with four birdies on the front nine, and then again failed to convert on the par 5s on the back nine. He missed the 11th green with a wedge, and he missed a birdie putt inside 3 feet on the 15th.

He felt his score could have been in the high 60s, though he was most pleased with his health.

“To be able to knock off some of the rust as I have this week and showed myself that I can recover each and every day, that was kind of an unknown,” he said. “I’ve walked this far. I’ve done all my training. But add in playing and concentration and adrenaline and all those other factors that speed up everything, I’m very excited how the week’s turned out.”

Scheffler was at 16-under 200. Fitzpatrick, who won the Dunhill Links Championship the week after the Ryder Cup, birdied his last two holes and will play with Scheffler in the final group.

Justin Thomas had a 68 and was five shots behind. Jordan Spieth started the third round tied with Scheffler and fell back quickly with a drive into the bushes on the par-5 third that led to a penalty drop and a three-shot swing — Spieth made bogey, Scheffler holed a 15-foot eagle putt.

Spieth shot 71 and was six shots back.

Scheffler has been the best ball-striker in golf this year, off the tee and into the greens, a dominant year with the exception of his putting. He began working with putting coach Phil Kenyon a few months ago and is looking sharper. All his scoring putts were outside 12 feet.

“I feel as if I’m much more clear in what I need to be working on and a lot of that has to do with how I’m set up over the ball,” Scheffler said. “When I’m set up in the right position, then I feel like my mechanics are really good. That’s what I’m focused on.”

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