PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods had to wake up earlier than usual to do it, but he made sure there wouldn’t be another Sunday off on the PGA Tour. After barely surviving the 36-hole cut, Woods posted a 5-under 65 in the third round of the Honda Classic to climb within shouting distance of leader Rory McIlroy before he teed off.
“Five is still in the ballgame,” Woods said.
Woods didn’t hit the range Friday night after shooting a second-round 69, but he credited a productive range session before his 7:37 a.m. Saturday tee time at PGA National’s Champion course for his improved ballstriking.
“Came out today and very first hole I hit it to 3 feet, but it spun back to about 15 feet and I made that,” Woods said.
Birdie putts of 37 feet and 25 feet at the two par 3s on the front side, Nos. 5 and 7, were offset by bogeys at Nos. 4 and 9. It was on the back nine where Woods had a clean card and appeared to have found his rhythm.
“I felt a lot better,” Woods said after his round. “I didn’t hit the ball very well yesterday. Just kind of grinded it out. Today I struck the ball well and made some putts.”
When Woods chipped in from left of the green at the 11th hole, it marked the first time he had made two birdies in a row all week. After orthodox pars at Nos. 12 and 13, he again made consecutive birdies, holing putts of 12 and 6 feet, respectively, at Nos. 14 and 15.
Afterwards, Woods said his target score was 6 or 7 under, but any thoughts of an eagle finish quickly faded at the par-5 18th when his drive drifted into the right rough and he elected to lay up. Had he made his 17-foot birdie putt at the last hole, Woods would have climbed to a tie for sixth place and caught Jamie Donaldson, William McGirt and Ryan Palmer. It was not to be. Woods settled for par and tied playing competitor Luke Guthrie with 65.
In his only other Tour start this season, Woods blew up with a 79 at Torrey Pines on Saturday and missed the secondary cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. It was his first “MDF,” or made cut did not finish.
At the Honda, it may not have been vintage Woods, but the third round had the feel of one his weekend charges until his putter betrayed him on the last three holes. Did Woods think he did enough to give himself a chance in the final round?
“Depends,” he said. “Depends what the guys do up there. So I’m up there as of now, but we’ll see what the guys do this afternoon.”