AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Tiger Woods was trying to figure out how to get to the 17th green from closer to the 15th fairway when the massive gallery anticipating his shot heard a huge roar behind them that caused them to look over their shoulders.
Rickie Fowler was responsible for making all that noise with an eagle on the second hole.
The third round of the Masters was just getting started on Saturday. The player so many fans wanted to see was about done.
Needing something special to even have hope, Woods had to settle for ordinary.
A few sloppy bogeys, two of them on par 5s. A few birdies. It added to an even-par 72, his best score of the week.
"I'm not hitting it close enough. I'm not taking advantage of the par 5s and consequently a good round is even par," Woods said.
It was disappointing, sure, but it also was surprising.
Woods spent so much of the Florida swing of the PGA Tour piecing his game back together, and his iron game was particularly sharp. And then at the Masters, it wasn't. Woods said he knows what the problem is, he just can't fix it.
And now it's too late for him to do anything about it.
So instead of Woods capping off this comeback with a fifth green jacket, he had to settle for playing the Masters for the first time in three years. Regardless of the score, no one wanted to miss him. Fans packed into Amen Corner and celebrated with Woods when he hit the green after two days of going into Rae's Creek. This one settled 8 feet away from the left pin.
"I just couldn't do it three days in a row," Woods said. "Missed the putt. But hey, that's a lot easier to play the hole from the green than it is dropping."
They stood on their toes — some of them hopped in place — to try to see over all the heads lining the 13th fairway to check if his shot cleared the tributary in front of the green. It narrowly did, except that Woods then chipped it too close to the edge and off the back of the green.
It wasn't great golf. It was simply golf by one of the greatest players.
Woods was assured of moving back into the top 100 in the world, notable only because he was at No. 1,199 just over four months ago when he returned from yet another long layoff following multiple back surgeries.
"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. Hopefully, tomorrow I can shoot something, get me to even par or even in the red. I think that will be a good goal tomorrow and hopefully I can get it done."
For now, all that can be said about this comeback is that he's at least back.
Woods played the third round with Ian Poulter — they had not played together in a tournament since the Bridgestone Invitational in 2011. Poulter said as they walked up the 18th fairway, he said to Woods, "It's good to see you healthy again."
It wasn't always like that.
"It would have felt different 15 years ago than it did today," Poulter said. "I would have been more nervous. It would have been more intimidating. He would have been hard, with his game face on."
He described Woods now as having a softer personality, and Poulter isn't alone in sensing that.
Woods is 1 under for the week on the four par 5s. He went just over the back of the 15th green with a wedge, chipped only up to the putting surface and missed his par putt. It was an example of how loose his game has been all week.
"It's been scratchy this week," he 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 is just off with my irons, just at the wrong time."
This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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