Tiger Woods’ hole-out ignites an improbable WGC Match Play pool title

Tiger Woods’ probability to win his pool at the WGC Match Play on Friday sat at just 23 percent. He wasn’t dead, but he was 1-0-1 and would need 1) to take care of his own match against the uber-talented Patrick Cantlay and 2) get some help in the other match in his pool.

Tiger handled the first part of that equation, wiping the floor with Cantlay and doing it in style. The crescendo came at the 13th hole, where Tiger played it safe down the right side instead of trying to rip driver at the short par-4 over water. Woods still got an eagle, however, with this dialed wedge to the right-pin location. We got the vintage Tiger fist-pump that we’ve rarely seen even during this last successful comeback year. These hole-out climaxes have been limited in recent years.

That’s the most unhinged you’ll ever hear those pricey corporate hospitality chalets at a primo spot on the course like that. NBC’s walking reporter, the portly and lovable Roger Maltbie, got into it, too.

And unlike Thursday’s miracle shot from the bushes shortly before losing to Brandt Snedeker, this incredible shot was actually part of a sustained run that set Tiger on the course for a win.

Tiger stood on the 11th tee 1-down to Cantlay. Then he won the 11th, won the 12th, had that hole-out for eagle to win the 13th, and then slammed in a 20-foot putt on the 14th hole to win that one too. It was a four-hole swing in five holes of the match, centered around that roar at the 13th.

So Tiger did his part with that vintage heater on the back nine. What about in the other part of the pool? Woods got the help he needed from Aaron Wise, who was 0-0-2 and really had nothing to play for against Snedeker. Wise, however, boatraced Snedeker just as Woods was making his run against Cantlay. The 2018 rookie of the year won 6&4.

The day that started with just a 23 percent probability of Tiger getting out of pool play had transformed into a guarantee of a Woods weekend appearance by 3 p.m. ET.

So who will he get first on Saturday morning as the knockout stage begins? Rory McIlroy, the best player in the world right now who has looked invincible through the first three days. The two have never met in this event but their match Saturday morning is a must-watch gift that seemed so improbable until the golf gods delivered with some Friday afternoon fireworks. The breaks rarely fall this right at this event, so pour a little Monster in your cereal Saturday morning and lock in for a potentially great match.

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