Tiger Woods battled back from a dreadful start to his third round at the Hero World Challenge to complete a three-over 75 for a share of 10th place in a field lead by Charley Hoffman in the Bahamas
It was the 10-hole setback lurking in the dark recesses of Tiger Woodss mind. It was an intervention from reality as fairytale threatened to take over. A grim Saturday spell at the Hero World Challenge illustrated that fevered anticipation as linked to next years Masters betting, for example surrounding Woods remains heavily offset by facts.
It would be unfair to focus on such troubles without highlighting the admirable response that followed it. Woods toiled badly in reaching the 11th tee at five-over par for his third round. In the most testing winds of the event, the 14-times major champion had dropped a shot at the 1st and hopelessly grasped for confidence boosts thereafter.
Woodss approach play was loose, his chipping a liability and the driving, which had been such a strength over the first two days, suddenly suspect. Having saved par impressively at the 11th, he had hit only two greens in regulation. Gone were the smiles; Woods was desperately trying to summon the spirit which once underpinned his greatness.
Salvation followed. Woods removed his cap and took a bow in an impressive act of self-deprecation having holed out for a birdie at the 14th. He collected another shot on the penultimate hole, meaning a 75 which in context of broader scoring was not disastrous. Only five of the 18-man field broke par for their third rounds. Woods outscored the world No1 Dustin Johnson by one and Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open champion, by a stroke more.
Overall Im very happy with whats going on this week, Woods insisted. There were a lot of questions that I had, Im sure you guys have had, and I feel like Ive come out on a good side this week.
That he retrieved it from an ominous and familiar position means an element of praise is indeed due. There is, however, no question that this Woods comeback will not be without bumps in the road. He suggested he may even relish the battle.
It was a rough start, Woods added. Whatever I did right ended up in a bad spot and whatever I did wrong was really wrong.
I just couldnt get it turned around, it kept going the wrong way. I hit that shot at the 3rd, which was 278 to the hole, I flew it about 290 into the wind with a cut. I didnt know I had that shot and ended up against the collar, which is a bad spot and made bogey there. Same thing at the 7th, I carried it too far. I was trying to hit it 300 or so and I carried it about 320 and ended up in a bad spot that I had no shot.
Thats just golf, were always going to face adversity. I was trying to get back to even par for the day, that was my goal. I finished three short of my goal but I was headed in the right direction.
Now 10 shots away from the lead held by Charley Hoffman, Woods will not win on his return. He can, though, make strides in the fourth round which would point towards a positive outlook for the new year. I feel good, Woods added. I feel like Ive got some experience in. Its nice to be part of the fight again. Fighting against the golf course, fighting against the guys, thats fun. I just havent done it a whole lot in the last few years.
Im very happy to have hit the ball as well as I have. Im very happy with the feel of my putter, overall shaping of shots and putting together rounds. I havent had a scorecard in my hand for a while; out here is very different to playing at home.
Hoffmans 70 means he has a five-shot lead over Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth. Francesco Molinari shot 71 for fourth while Tommy Fleetwoods 74 slid him back to minus seven and a share of fifth, with the European No1 left to rue finding water on the 18th.
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