Tiger Tracker: Woods well back after Round 3

Tiger Woods walks off the fifth hole during the third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

DORAL, Fla. – All of his fine work on the verge of being undone, Tiger Woods squatted behind his ball on the back of the 14th green and collected himself. How was he positioned? Well, not as nicely as an hour earlier. The electronic leaderboard to his right, displaying big, bold letters, told the story: WATSON -17; WOODS -7.

The last time Woods faced a big deficit heading into Sunday, he produced his best golf in years, shooting 62 and nearly winning the Honda Classic. That was last week, about an hour up the Turnpike in Palm Beach Gardens.

Those memories are still fresh, both for Woods and everyone else, and good thing: He’ll need to summon something similar -- no, better -- if he’s to chase down Bubba Watson Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

After opening with four birdies in his first six holes, after moving to only four off the lead and after playing the four reachable par 5s in even par, Woods could manage only a 4-under 68 on Saturday at Doral. A disappointing 68. He birdied two of his last three holes, including one on the monstrous 18th, to post 9-under 207, tied for eighth and eight strokes behind Watson. Last week, at the Honda, Woods was nine back entering Sunday.

“I had it going and unfortunately made a mistake on 8 and 12,” said Woods, referring to the two par 5s he bogeyed. On No. 8, he tried to play a three-quarter 2-iron, with a draw, from 239 yards but turned it left. (“That’s a hard shot for most people,” Woods said, “and I’m like most people on that one.”) From a burned-out area left of the green, and with water looming behind the putting surface, he chunked his pitch into the sand and made bogey. On No. 12, a par 5 he birdied each of the first two rounds, Woods pushed his tee shot into a bush and took an unplayable.

“Other than that, it was a pretty good day,” he said.

Indeed it was, particularly the start, with birdies on his first three holes and four of the first six. The Blue Monster was especially toothless on Saturday, with light winds and warm temperatures. That explains why World No. 1 Rory McIlroy was 8 under through 11, why there were only 15 rounds over par, why you need to scroll all the way down to Charles Howell III (71), at T-14, to find a player at the top of the leaderboard who didn’t shoot 2 under or better.

Woods hit his most fairways of the week (10 of 14), but his misses off the tee were especially penal. Two consecutive misses on the back nine, on Nos. 12 and 14, resulted in bogeys. He managed to hit 10 greens, his fewest of the week, but also required only 23 putts. Clearly, playing with smooth-stroke Steve Stricker has its advantages.

Only a super-low round will suffice on Sunday if Tiger is to challenge for the title, his fourth at Doral and seventh overall at this event. He shot 62 last week, at PGA National, and that number already has been shot this week, by leader Watson on Friday when the wind was blowing. So yes, it can be done, however unlikely.

“Hopefully tomorrow,” Woods said, “we’ll get it going.”

He tees it up at 2 p.m. EDT Sunday with Webb Simpson.

-- Ryan Lavner

• • •

No. 18, Par 4, 467 yards

Tiger takes a very aggressive line at No. 18, cutting off a good deal of the finishing hole and leaving just 153 yards to the flag.

Hitting straight into the wind, Tiger hits a beautiful approach inside 4 feet of the hole and drops the birdie putt to polish off a 4-under 68.

Through Round 3: 9 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 17, Par 4, 419 yards

After the birdie at 16, Wood hammers a drive down the middle of the fairway at No. 17.

He hits his second shot to 15 feet – a real accomplishment considering the tucked back pin.

Woods puts a good stroke on his birdie putt, but misses just right. He taps in for par.

Through No. 17: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 16, Par 4, 372 yards

Tiger hits a perfect tee shot at the short par-4 16th, cutting the corner and landing his ball at the end of the fairway. He'll have a flip wedge into the green from 41 yards.

Tiger hasn't yet been able to capitalize on this short hole this week.

Woods hits a great shot from 41 yards and leaves himself just 7 feet for birdie. Tiger rolls in the birdie putt to move back to 8 under.

Through No. 16: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 15, Par 3, 175 yards

Woods hits a nice tee shot at the par-3 15th, but it might just be too late. Woods is going to need to finish very strong to have a chance tomorrow.

He's got about 15 feet down the hill for his birdie chance.

Woods doesn't see the subtle break to the left and two-putts for par.

Through No. 14: 7 under (2 under today)

• • •

No. 14, Par 4, 460 yards

Tiger misses the fairway left at No. 14. He's only able to advance his second shot about 50 yards after it clips a tree. His lie after that shot is so poor that Tiger nearly stepped on his ball before realizing where it was.

His third shot comes out with no spin and rolls over the green. He's not able to hole another chip for par, instead hitting to tap-in range and making another bogey.

Through No. 14: 7 under (2 under today)

• • •

No. 13, Par 3, 245 yards

Another errant shot for Tiger, this one finding the right front bunker at the long par-3 13th.

Woods hits his bunker shot shorter than he had hoped, leaving 10 feet for par.

Tiger rolls in the par-saving putt and remains at 8 under par. It's a big save for Woods, who may have been just about finished with another bogey there.

Through No. 13: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 12, Par 5, 603 yards

Tiger hits a bad push at No. 12, finding the underbrush to the right of the fairway. It's his second big push of the day (No. 1), and it's going to hurt him badly if he winds up squandering a good chance at another par 5.

It took a while to locate the golf ball, but Woods does at last. He elects to take an unplayable lie from the scrub brushes and hits a massive cut 3-wood into the fairway, giving himself a chance to get up-and-down for par.

Woods hits a mediocre wedge shot from the fairway, leaving 20 feet for par, which he leaves short. That's two bogeys on par 5s today and even on the par 5s overall. That's just not going to get it done on a day where scores are so low throughout the course.

Through No. 12: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 11, Par 4, 402 yards

Tiger has 162 yards remaining after a nice tee shot to the center of the fairway, but Woods misses the green short and right. A real miscue there.

Woods saves his par with a good third shot, which settles three feet from the hole.

Through No. 11: 9 under (4 under today)

• • •

No. 10, Par 5, 551 yards

Wielding an iron off the tee at the par-5 10th, Tiger finds the dead center of the fairway. Still with 281 yards to the pin, Tiger tries to run the ball up to the green, but finds the right greenside bunker.

Woods hits an excellent bunker shot to 4 feet and he'll have a great chance at birdie.

Tiger gets back to 9 under with a right-to-left short birdie putt at No. 10.

Through No. 10: 9 under (4 under today)

• • •

No. 9, Par 3, 169 yards

Uh, oh.

It's been a while since we've seen this sort of tantrum from Tiger, who hated the swing off the ninth tee. His ball sails into the water and Tiger drops his club, kicks it aside and lets out a few profanities.

Shockingly, however, he holes out his extremely difficult chip from off the green to save par and remain at 8 under par.

Through No. 9: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 8, Par 5, 560 yards

Woods has three par 5s in his next five holes and he finds the left side of the fairway, leaving him with a decision to make. Tiger has less than 250 yards into the green, which is surrounded by water. His second shot will also be directly into the wind.

Woods gets a bit quick with his second swing at No. 8 missing to the left of the greenside bunkers. Needing to play a crazy flop shot to get the ball close, Woods hits too far behind the ball and leaves his third shot in the bunker. He hits a mediocre bunker shot, leaving himself 15 feet for par, which he misses, making a bogey 6.

That was Tiger's first dropped shot since No. 18 on Thursday.

Through No. 8: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 7, Par 4, 454 yards

Woods takes driver off the seventh tee and finds the left rough, clearing the left fairway bunker and leaving himself 124 yards into the pin. He'll have a good lie and just a wedge left. He should have plenty of room to let the ball release out of the rough.

Woods' second shot carries over the green, but leaves him with a fairly easy up-and-down. He hits a solid third shot, rolling the ball to 4 feet.

He converts the par save at No. 7, remaining at 9 under par.

Through No. 7: 9 under (4 under today)

• • •

No. 6, Par 4, 442 yards

Another excellent driver swing by Tiger, who finds the center of the fairway at No. 6. Other than the errant tee shot at the first, it's been smooth sailing off the tee for Woods. The pin couldn't be any more accessible, sitting on the front-right portion of the green.

From 114 yards, Woods hits a nice approach that hits and stops up 9 feet right of the hole.

Tiger calmly rolls in the birdie putt, his fourth of the day. Woods appears to have a bit of swagger back, as well, and has started to acknowledge the gallery a bit more, too.

Through No. 6: 9 under (4 under today)

• • •

No. 5, Par 4, 382 yards

Woods made birdie at the par-4 fifth yesterday with an iron off the tee and so he tries it again today, finding the fairway.

Playing from 132 yards, Woods hits his second shot over the green into the back bunker. A touch of wind picked up and may have factored into the long shot. Woods puts his hands on his knees and grits his teeth, obviously unhappy.

He makes up for the miss, hitting a lovely bunker shot inside four feet. He taps in for par and will move on to the sixth.

Through No. 5: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 4, Par 3, 236 yards

Woods finds the front center of the green at the long par-3 fourth. There was no need to even think about attacking this pin, which is tucked all the way to the right, near the water.

He'll have a chance to two-putt for par from 46 feet.

Tiger's birdie attempt comes up short, leaving a 2-foot tap-in for his first par of the day.

Through No. 4: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 3, Par 4, 438 yards

Again hitting a driver, Woods finds the dead center of the third fairway with a 303-yard poke. He'll have 123 yards left to the left-center flag.

Woods' second shot is all over the flagstick, settling 2 feet right of the hole and giving him a great chance at a third-consecutive birdie.

Tiger rolls in his third birdie. He's really exploiting the getable Blue Monster today, which has it's least intimidating conditions of the week.

Through No. 3: 8 under (3 under today)

• • •

No. 2, Par 4, 419 yards

Tiger, again pulling driver, hammers his tee shot up the right side of the fairway, leaving just 61 yards to the flagstick. Woods hit from a similar position yesterday and flubbed his second shot into the bunker.

Woods flies his second shot 18 feet past the hole and will have a look at birdie from there.

Tiger rolls in the birdie putt, which dies into the right side of the hole.

Through No. 2: 7 under (2 under today)

• • •

No. 1, Par 5, 529 yards

It's a hot, humid day in South Florida with the lightest breezes we've seen all week.

Wielding a driver, Tiger's opening tee shot misses well right – only his second right miss with the driver this week. Although the tee shot was way off-line, Woods has an ideal angle at the pin and lie from 177 yards. He takes advantage, hitting an iron into the par-5 and hitting the green at pin-high in two shots. He'll have about 30 feet for an eagle opportunity.

Woods' eagle attempt comes up just short and he taps in for birdie at the easiest hole on the course. It's imperative to take advantage of the vulnerable opening hole, which Woods does.

Through No. 1: 6 under (1 under on the day)

• • •

SECOND-ROUND COVERAGE

Round 2 Tiger Tracker: Woods shoots 67

Tiger played a solid round of golf and shot 5-under 67 Friday, but he still has plenty of ground to make up. Tiger Tracker

Kruger's game on the rise in 2012

South African Jbe Kruger may be the smallest man in the field phyiscally, but his game is taking a big turn upward. Jeff Rude

• • •

FIRST-ROUND COVERAGE

Round 1 recap: Tiger Woods fires a 72

Tiger Woods couldn't come up with enough birdies for a low first round at Doral on Thursday, but still showed streaks of brilliance. First-round recap

• • •

Well-rested Scott vaults into lead

After playing only five competitive rounds since November, Adam Scott showed no signs of rust Thursday at Doral, tying Jason Dufner for the first-round lead. Jeff Rude

• • •

Wind wreaking havoc at Doral

One player hit the par-5 first in two shots with an 8-iron Thursday. To reach the par-4 18th in two, he needed a hybrid. The wind giveth and taketh away at Doral. Jim McCabe

• • •

Lyle has leukemia recurrence

Jarrod Lyle has had a recurrence of leukemia at home in Australia, just as the 30-year-old is preparing to become a father for the first time. Story.

• • •

PRE-TOURNAMENT COVERAGE

A new week for Tiger

Sure Tiger Woods' final-round 62 at last week's was brilliant, but the thing is, it happened last week. It was something Woods was quick to point out Wednesday at Doral. Story.

• • •

Consistency at the top

Add Rory McIlroy to the world's best, and the game's upper rung suddenly gets a lot more interesting. With the Masters drawing near, Jeff Rude explains why that's good for the game. Story.

• • •

Big task ahead

Donald Trump will signal a start to the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a press conference to discuss his purchase of the host venue this week, Doral Golf Resort & Spa. Gil Hanse, chosen course designer of the 2016 Rio Olympics course, will revamp the Blue Monster course at Doral. Story.

• • •

Notes: Casey back on the course

Paul Casey already has missed five tournaments this year after dislocating his right shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays. It’s a bad time for an injury, especially in a Ryder Cup year, though Casey has a good reason to feel optimistic. Story.

• • •

Notes: Oosthuizen will play, but not pain-free

Two days after withdrawing from the final round of the Honda Classic, Louis Oosthuizen was back at work at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster, determined to give it a go at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Story.

• • •

Natural fit

The decision to hire Gil Hanse to design the 2016 Olympics golf course represents a powerful endorsement of a post-modern, links-inspired orientation to golf at the highest level of international competition. Story.

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