Woods faces 12-shot deficit heading to Open finale

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ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (AP) - Tiger Woods was clearly enjoying himself between shots, yukking it up with good buddy Darren Clarke as they played 18 holes at the birthplace of golf.

Not a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon.

But the number on the card needed to be lower.

A lot lower.

All Woods could manage Saturday at the British Open was a second straight 73, despite having four putts for eagle on the Old Course. None of them would drop, and the distance between the world’s No. 1 player and the only spot he really cares about grew from eight shots at the beginning of the third round to a daunting dozen by the time it was done.

Woods will be a mere sidelight on the final day, no matter how many times someone yells, “You da man!” Even at a tournament that can change drastically, given in the fluky elements of the Scottish seaside, no one has ever come back to win from more than 10 shots down heading to the fourth round.

The man of the moment is an unheralded South African, Louis Oosthuizen, who will take the lead into the final round of a major for the first time in his life. At least he knows he won’t have to worry about Woods bearing down on him in the rearview mirror.

While Woods was on the fringe of contention at his first two majors post-scandal, he hasn’t been much of a factor at St. Andrews since opening with a 5-under 67 in pristine conditions Thursday.

“I hit it good,” Woods said. “I striped it all day. I just didn’t get anything out of the round. I couldn’t build any momentum. I wasn’t making any putts.”

It was easy to zero in on the root of his problems: Look no further than the flat stick.

Woods had a putter in his hand with eagle on the line at the ninth, 12th and 14th holes, the latter being the lone par-5 among them. Two birdies and a three-putt par was the best he could do.

He finished the round with another squandered opportunity, driving the green on the short par-4 for the second day in a row _ then taking three more putts to get down for par on a hole where anything worse than birdie is a disappointment.

“I’m driving it beautifully and I’m not making any putts,” Woods said. “It’s just one of those things where you just have to be patient. I was grinding. I was as patient as I possibly could be, and I was just trying to plod my way along. I just didn’t get anything going.”

Woods whacked at it 35 times on Saturday _ only five players put more miles on their putter. He’s taken 99 strokes on or around the massive greens over the first three rounds, which essentially accounts for the margin between him and the leader. Oosthuizen has used his putter 88 times, third-fewest in the field.

Woods broke out a new club for St. Andrews, hoping it would help him judge the slower speed of the greens. It hasn’t done much good, but he refused to blame his equipment.

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