Tiger Woods on Masters struggle: 'I’m getting there. I wish this week would have been a little bit better'

Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods on Masters struggle: 'I’m getting there. I wish this week would have been a little bit better'

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods on Masters struggle: 'I’m getting there. I wish this week would have been a little bit better'

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods was the reason this has been the most anticipated Masters in years. Maybe ever.

The leaderboard was stupid good midway through Saturday’s third round, and the 2018 Masters has lived up to the hype even though Woods has failed to meet expectations.

The board is packed with major champions like Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson. Major-less young studs Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm are right there too, and it’s still anyone’s green jacket.

These are the players who have largely carried the torch in Woods’ absence, and they’ll take center stage again with Woods out of the Sunday picture.

“I’ve had some success in this comeback and I’m getting there,” Woods said. “I wish this week would have been a little bit better.”

As many of the world’s best are seizing the moment and putting on a show at Augusta National, Woods has been going through some swing issues at the worst possible time.

Yes, there have been some shaky tee shots, though Woods insists he’s driving the ball better than he has all year at the Masters. The real issue this week has been the irons, because even when he blasts drives down the fairway to leave himself a good number in, he hasn’t taken advantage. Often times he’s gotten himself into trouble.

He was so relieved to finally find the 12th green Saturday in Round 3 that he made a mocking ‘safe’ gesture. The fans enjoyed that one after witnessing Woods dump his tee shots into Rae’s Creek on Thursday and Friday.

“How about that?” Woods said. “You know, I just couldn’t do it three days in a row. I just couldn’t do it. And I gave it a little bit more gas on it and made sure that I was long if I did miss and I hit a good one from there.”

Woods shot even-par 72 Saturday, his lowest round of the week. He’s 4 over for the tournament and said the goal is to get back to even par or in the red come Sunday. That’s the new goal, but the original goal – the only goal – was to win in his first trip at Augusta National since 2015.

“It’s been scratchy this week,” Woods said. “I just haven’t gotten it done. I feel like I’m driving it better than I have all year, but I am not capitalizing on it. And when I did miss, I missed in the wrong spots. My swing’s just off with my irons at the wrong time.”

The thought that Woods actually could win at Augusta National started the week of the Honda Classic, where he finished T-12 and led the field in average proximity to the hole. This week he was outside the top 40, leaving himself an average of 44 feet, 10 inches.

Woods had three birdies and three bogeys in Round 3, and any hopes of a miraculous comeback were gone when he opened bogey-bogey and fell to 6 over.

One of the cool things about Augusta National is how information like Tiger Woods’ score for the day spreads throughout the course.

There definitely aren’t any digital leaderboards with scrolling updates and cell phones aren’t allowed on property. Crowd sourcing is the best and sometimes only way to figure things out.

There are manually-operated leaderboards at certain holes that show where each player in that group is at in relation to par for the tournament, including the big one just south of the clubhouse that lists players’ score as they make the turn.

A large crowd stopped and gathered around the ninth green while Woods was getting ready to hit his tee shot. You could hear the roars on the eighth green a few minutes prior, which were too loud for a par but not quite loud enough to suggest an eagle. That meant he made birdie at eight, and someone said they knew he was 5 over on the tournament through seven, and that’s how one pocket of fans figured out that Woods was now even on the day and 4 over before he got to the green.

That’s where he would finish after a par on nine, a bogey at the par-5 15th and a birdie at the par-3 16th. He’s played No. 16 at 2 under this week but has struggled mightily on the par 5s with just three birdies, 12 pars and one bogey.

Despite how happy the fans have been to welcome him back, Woods admitted for the first time Saturday that frustration had set in. He said he knows what the problem is with the irons but hasn’t been able to fix it on the fly, and that there weren’t any signs of trouble leading up to the week.

“That’s why it’s disappointing and a little bit frustrating,” Woods said. “But I haven’t been sharp with them, given the fact that I was playing well coming in, my practice sessions have been good, and (I) just have not executed the way that I have been.”

Woods executed pretty well throughout the Florida swing. Just not as well as Rory McIlroy did when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, or Justin Thomas during a playoff win at the Honda Classic.

This week has served as a good reminder that Woods is still trying to come back from it all, but a crazy number of A-list names are on top of their games these days. That was another reason this Masters was so rich with storylines and anticipation.

Woods won’t factor in to the Sunday picture at Augusta National, but it’s still shaping up to be one of the most exciting final rounds in a long, long time.

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