CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Tiger Woods’ playing partner in Saturday’s third round, an obscure 36-year-old South African journeyman who plays on the Japan Tour named Shaun Norris, was mesmerized not only by what he witnessed from Woods but by the madness that surrounds Woods.
“It’s absolutely crazy to think so many people can follow a person,” Norris said. “It’s like playing with a mythical creature. It doesn’t feel real.”
Norris sounded bullish on where Woods’ game is and his chances to win again.
“He’s really hitting the ball well and I think he’s moving in the right direction again,’’ Norris said. “I don’t think he’s very far away from really taking everybody on again. You can see that he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s on top of his game again. He’s very close.’’
Asked if he thinks Woods has a chance to hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday, Norris said, “I think he’s got a great chance.’’
Asked what his reaction was Friday night when he learned he’d be paired with Woods, Norris said, “The only person who wasn’t happy was my mother, because she couldn’t get up close outside the ropes to see me play because it was 15 to 20 people deep.’’
Rory McIlroy, who is four shots out of the lead after shooting 70 on Saturday, said he’s hoping the weather forecast for 15-20 mph winds proves to be correct.
“I just need to get off to a fast start,’’ he said. “I’m obviously disappointed after the way I finished (bogeys on 16 and 18), but I’m still in the tournament. I’m only a few shots behind. The wind is supposed to pick up a little bit. So it will make things interesting.”
McIlroy said he plans to keep attacking the course.
“I’ll definitely go out and hit a lot of drivers,” he said. “I felt like today the course was perfectly set up to take advantage of it and attack it and I tried to do that for the most part. Maybe my wedge play wasn’t quite as good as it should have been, but I give myself plenty of chances. I just need to regroup and get ready for [Sunday].’’
Late Friday, Justin Rose stood over a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole needing to sink it to make the cut. He made the putt, made the cut and entered the third round nine shots off the lead at 3-over.
That’s when Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner who is seeking his first British Open victory, made his move by shooting a 7-under 64. It matched the Open course record set by Steve Stricker and Richard Green and is the best Open round of Rose’s career. When he completed his round, Rose, at 4-under, was just two shots out of the lead.
“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up,’’ Rose said. “I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning. That might have been part of the shift in mindset. I had nothing to lose from that point of view.”
Phil Mickelson’s frustrating summer continued as he failed to make the kind of move he hoped for, shooting a 1-under 70 to stand at 1-under and out of contention to win his second Open.
“The game’s just hard for me right now,’’ Mickelson said. “I don’t feel like I’m playing bad, but just it’s not coming easy. So it was a fight. I’m enjoying the challenge. It’s not coming as easy as it did the first part of the year. When I hit great drives, I couldn’t quite get the irons close. I couldn’t quite make the putts.
“There’s some low scores out there if you play well. Par is probably a 3-under. Anything under that is a good round.’’