GAINESVILLE, Maybe it was the bitter cold.
The strong wind.
The anticipated exhaustion.
Or, more simply, a lack of focus.
Whatever the cause, Tiger Woods did something he’d never done before in his Masters career in the third round on Saturday.
On the green, he used his putter four times.
In a week in which Woods has been the subject of incredible photographs – just arriving at Augusta National, getting to the first tee on Thursday, shooting a 71 in the first round, to name a few – things did not go as planned in the third round.
Consider his work on the fifth hole’s tricky putting surface during Saturday’s third round of the 86th Masters. Woods had declared the day before that he needed to reach within six strokes of the lead on Sunday’s back nine to have a chance to win his sixth green jacket, despite a great second-round recovery following his worst start in Masters history.
Despite his painful right leg, ankle, and foot, which are held together by plates, screws, and rods following a high-speed, single-car accident in Los Angeles last February that nearly resulted in amputation, he was still thinking “W.” Despite competing in his first formal tournament in almost 500 days, he still thinks “W.”
But, after a three-putt bogey on the first hole on a day where the temperature never rose above 55 degrees and the wind made it feel like 45, his prospects of getting back into contention ended on the fifth hole.
He had 62 feet for birdie after a bad approach. After that, he only needed six feet for par. Then bogey is three feet. After that, it’s three feet for double.
He was 11 shots behind the leader after four whacks.
But that was only a small part of his nightmares that played out on the greens for Woods. In total, one of the game’s greatest putters had four four-putt greens, four three-putt greens, and two other occasions where he was just off the green and used his putter three times.
In seven holes, that’s 22 putts.
It was the first time he had more than four three-putts or worse in a round in his professional career. In the end, he signed for a 6-over-par 78, his lowest score at Augusta National in 93 rounds. He was 7 over par after shooting 71-74-78 and is 16 strokes behind leader Scottie Scheffler.
Woods stated, “It’s like I hit a thousand putts out there on the greens today.” “Obviously, that has had an impact on the score.” When you take those out, I’m back to regular two-putts, and I’m even-par for the day. On the greens, I performed exactly the opposite of what I needed to do in terms of ball striking.
“I just couldn’t seem to gain a feel for how to handle the ball.” I couldn’t find it in my posture, feel, right hand, or release. Trying different things, trying to find it, trying to get anything, taking practice strokes and just trying to feel the swing and the putter head, nothing seemed to work.
“You’d think with as many putts as I had, I’d have figured it out somewhere along the way, but it simply didn’t happen.”
Throughout the round, Woods walked with a pronounced limp. His iron play was off, especially with the short irons. Woods has frequently stated that the colder the weather, the worse it is for his fused back, as the icy temperatures make it more difficult for him to loosen his back.
“It’s definitely not as supple and loose as it normally is,” Woods remarked. “It’s been blustery all day today.” When you consider the temperature differential, it was frigid to begin with. The ball didn’t seem to be going very far. It seemed difficult to me. Some of the other guys may disagree, but I had a difficult time. I didn’t feel like I hit it particularly poorly, but I had four three-putts and a four-putt.”
To make it through the last round, Woods will have to summon all of his might. At the very least, it will be warmer, with highs in the 70s. However, his right leg, ankle, and foot will be sore, and he will walk with a limp now that his quest for a 16th major is over. And he’ll be matched with Jon Rahm, who beat Woods in the 2018 Ryder Cup singles final in Paris.
As a result, he will not give up.
“I fight every every day,” he added. “Every day is a new task.” Every day brings with it its own set of problems for all of us.
“When I wake up, the fight begins all over again.”
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