Scottie Scheffler is playing like the top-ranked player in the world that he is.
Scheffler made two eagles while shooting seven-under-par 65 to take a three-stroke lead over eighth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England heading to the final round of the 24th Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course in New Providence, The Bahamas.
The Hero World Challenge is an unofficial PGA Tour event, as the 2023 season has ended and will continue with the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Jan. 4.
Hero tournament host Tiger Woods, playing for the first time since withdrawing from the Masters and undergoing a second surgery on his right ankle in April, followed opening scores of 75-70 with a 71, bouncing back after making bogeys on the first two holes.
“Despite the scores, I think I played better than yesterday,” said Woods, who has won the Hero a record five times, but not since 2011. “I got off to a slow start, but then made (four) birdie putts on the front nine, but then missed some putts near the end.
“I feel good and I’m happy overall the way the first three days have gone, just getting back into it, and I hope to play even better tomorrow. … I still have game. ”
Scheffler, the 2021 Masters champion, sank eagle putts of 15 feet on the third hole and 13 feet on the 15th, and added four birdies before making his only bogey on the last hole to record a 54-hole score of 16-under-par 200.
Fitzpatrick, who captured the 2022 U.S. Open Championship at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., sank an incredible 47-foot eagle putt at No. 15 and made three of his eight birdies in a row to end the front nine in another 65.
“It’s nice to see some putts go in,” said Scheffler, who has finished second each of the last two years in the Hero World Challenge. “I’m rolling it good. … I’m much more clear of what I need to be working on, but it’s kind of hard to explain.
“I felt like I was using too much, like too much of my hands and stuff like that in my stroke. I feel like now I’m in a place with my putting where I can use my feel, my instincts to kind of turn other things off and just go there and try and hit putts, and be OK with the result, whether it goes in or doesn’t.”
Said Fitzpatrick, who has won a total 10 times on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour: “It was good for pretty much the whole round, bar two holes. The drive on No. 11 cost me, obviously, with a double-bogey. Outside of that, everything was good today.”
Justin Thomas, a two-time major champion, birdied three of the last five holes for a 68 and is five shots behind in solo fourth, while Jason Day of Australia, the 2015 PGA champion, collected seven birdies in a 66 and is one more down in a tie for fifth with first-round co-leader Tony Finau, who had three birdies on each nine in a 68, Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who made three straight birdies on each nine in another 68, and second-round co-leader Jordan Spieth, who made two late birdies to salvage a 71.
Sepp Straka of Austria had four birdies on the front nine in a 68 and is seven strokes behind in a tie for ninth with first-round co-leader Brian Harman, who made birdies on four of his last five holes for 71, while Cameron Young, the 2022 PGA Rookie of the Year, birdied the last hole for a 69 and is nine down in solo 10th.
Seventh-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal carded a bogey-free 71 with his lone birdie at No. 15and is 13th, while fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, the two-time defending Hero champion, shot 70 and is tied for 16th, Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, the 2017 Hero champion, is 18th despite three late birdie in a 73, and 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion, totaled 71 and is 19th.
The Hero World Challenges benefits Woods’ TGR Foundation, which sponsors youth education programs.
For complete results and final-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard