Tiger, Rory get no mercy from Merion

Tiger Woods hits his third shot on 4th fairway during the third round. The world's No. 1 player finished with a 76 for a total of 219 - and in an 8-way tie for 31st.
Tiger Woods hits his third shot on 4th fairway during the third round. The world's No. 1 player finished with a 76 for a total of 219 - and in an 8-way tie for 31st. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff)
Posted: June 17, 2013

Rory McIlroy drained a birdie putt on the first hole, Tiger Woods dropped a birdie on top of it, and the crowd watching from out on Ardmore Avenue got loud - Palestra loud.

The top two players in the world, getting it going. Goose bump time at Merion.

Immediately, McIlroy gave the crowd on Ardmore another thrill - hitting his tee shot at No. 2 out to them . . . as in way out of bounds.

Where were all the birdies, Woods was asked later.

"They were at the first hole," Woods said. "That was it."

McIlroy had another birdie on the front, at the short par-4 seventh, well-hidden among five front-nine bogeys.

"I guess I was missing my woods right and my irons left," McIlroy mentioned.

Everybody was feeling sorry for The Other Guy in the group. Nobody was shouting Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano's first name because nobody knew it. The Spaniard probably didn't mind. He shot 72 while McIlroy was shooting 75 and Woods 76.

During their back nine, their group was basically dropped from the telecast. They were even dropped from the radio broadcast. Lindsey Vonn was still following her boyfriend, but marshals forgot to drop a rope as Woods and McIlroy walked to sign their scorecards. Such indignities, having to stop in mid-stride and wait over five seconds for the rope to be disconnected around the putting green.

In truth, they weren't bothered by rope around a green. It was the greens themselves.

"I didn't make anything today," Woods said. "I just couldn't get a feel for them. Some putts were slow, some were fast, and I had a tough time getting my speed right."

He also has hit a costly chip or pitch shot at least once every round. At the sixth, Woods hit a pitch that didn't clear the crest of a front slope and ran back almost to his feet. Bogey.

"That was a little bit into the grain, I had to throw it up there, and I had to try and shallow it out, and I did it too much," Woods said. "It was a tough little shot."

The one that really bothered him, he said, was the hole before, when a Position A tee shot ran into a divot hole. He ended up in the front of that green, too, and made bogey.

"It was kind of the way it went," Woods said.

With Woods 9 over and McIlroy 8 over, there's a chance they could be playing together for the fifth straight day, including a Wednesday practice round.

Both men know the stakes have changed. They know better than anybody that going miraculously low isn't in the cards at Merion.

"Always the next one, Tiger," a man shouted at him after it was.

Not the words Woods cares to hear after the third round of a major, but he didn't debate the guy.

"I'm playing well enough to do it," Woods said. "Unfortunately just haven't gotten it done."

The way McIlroy sized it up: "I guess if I play well, try and get in the top 10, that would be realistic."

Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow @jensenoffcampus on Twitter.

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