Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Tiger Woods continued his solid play at the Masters, but the defending champion seems unlikely to keep the green jacket heading into Sunday’s final round.
On a day in which he had to play the final eight holes of his second round plus the entire third round, Woods finished at five under par overall. The five-time Masters champion shot an even-par 72 in round three.
There was some hope coming out of the second round that Woods might be able to make a run at the lead. He was five under at that point, but only four shots behind a group of five players, including Dustin Johnson, who were tied for the lead.
After wrapping up the second round, Woods told reporters about the conditions on the course and how it was impacting his play:
“The air is heavy. The ball is not really flying like it was yesterday. They definitely have sped up the greens overnight. They were a lot faster this morning, and you could hear the SubAirs [the suction system that removes moisture from the fairways and greens] out there today, so I think as the day progresses, they’re only going to get a little bit faster.”
Justin Ray of 15th Club noted the parallels between Woods through two rounds this year and Jack Nicklaus at the same point during his 1986 Masters win:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf
Jack Nicklaus in 1986: 33rd in World Ranking, 23 years since first Masters win, seeking 6th green jacket, T-17 after 36 holes
Tiger Woods in 2020: 33rd in World Ranking, 23 years since first Masters win, seeking 6th green jacket, T-17 after 36 holes
The third round looked a lot like the second for Woods. He made par on the first seven holes, though some early struggles off the tee likely cost him at least one birdie opportunity. The Stanford alum drove his tee shots on the first and second holes into bunkers.
The tee shot on No. 2 was particularly harmful because it’s been a haven for birdies all weekend, including one for Woods in the second round. He did have a chance at a birdie when his third shot landed 10 feet from the hole, but his first putt lipped out.
Tiger Tracker @GCTigerTracker
Lipped it. Lipped it on the left. https://t.co/QhIpxFbupG
Woods struggled with his driver throughout the third round. He hit just nine of 14 fairways, his fewest in a single round so far this weekend. Even though he was able to salvage it by hitting 12 of 18 greens in regulation, putting was also a problem for him.
After being above-average in putts per round through the first two rounds, Woods fell below the mark on Saturday with 1.72 putts per hole (1.67 for the field). He looked to be in line for an over-par round after bogeys on No. 8 and 11.
The 12th hole saw Woods get back on track. His tee shot landed within 10 feet of the hole, and he rolled in the putt for birdie. It did appear as if he was dealing with possible back issues by this point in the day, though:
Nick Pietruszkiewicz @npiet_ESPN
Tiger Woods hits a perfect tee shot at the beautiful par-3 12th and then rolls in his first birdie of the day. But, again, very, very slowly bends over to pick the ball out of the hole. https://t.co/XSk004kC9j
Woods addressed his physical issues after wrapping up his round.
“I can walk all day,” he told reporters. “The hard part is bending and twisting. I think that’s part of the game, though, and so that’s always been the challenge with my back issues and I guess will always continue to be.”
Tiger was able to finish the round on a strong note. He played the back nine at one under par, with a birdie on No. 15 capping off the major highlights of his day.
Even though the end result of this weekend likely won’t be what Woods was hoping for, it is a marked improvement from how he was playing leading up to Augusta. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open in September and finished tied 72nd out of 78 players at the ZOZO Championship in October.
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