Woods had the golf world in raptures over the first two rounds with some stunning golf to be 7-under and in the mix heading to the weekend of his first competitive event in 10 months.
But after amassing nine birdies and an eagle over the opening two rounds, including a 5-under front nine on day two, Woods slumped to an opening 40 on Saturday to temper expectations.
However, despite his poor play over the opening nine holes Woods showed his trademark tenacity on the inward journey with birdies at the 14th and 17th to salvage a 75 from what could easily have been much worse given he was 5-over through 10.
Charley Hoffman continues to lead the tournament at 14-under after a third round 70, five shots ahead of Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose with Woods languishing 10 shots behind.
But despite having little chance to win the tournament from here, Woods’ play so far has given fans plenty of hope that his latest return from injury might be more promising than previous efforts.
“Everything I did right ended up in a bad spot and anything I did wrong ended up being really bad,” Woods said of his play after the round. “It was just one of those days.”
The 14-time major winner cited several examples, beginning with a blistered 3-wood at the par-5 third which flew 260 metres in the air and caught him by surprise.
“The shot that really threw me for a loop was the shot at 3,” he told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands after the round.
“I pumped a drive down there and hit the most beautiful 3-wood that went about 300 yards into the wind and ended up with a bad lie and make bogey.
“It’s just one of those things where little things I did wrong… i.e at 6, I should have played for the flier instead of just hitting a normal shot and then I caught the flier and went over the green in a bad spot. I should have protected there from the flier.
“The next hole (the driveable 7th) I hit it too far. I carried it up near the green, which is about 320ish, and ended up in a bad spot in the rough down there.
“I just ended up in bad spots after good shots.”
Woods’ first highlight of the day came at the 14th when he drove just short of the par-4 green and got up and down for birdie before taking off his cap and bowing to the crowd.
“Well it’s ridiculous it took me 14 holes to make a birdie,” he said of the moment of levity with a laugh. “At the time ,I’ve already played four par 5s and nothing happened but hey, it’s just one of those days.
“I fought through and tomorrow is another fight.”
Woods said despite not being pleased with his score he was enjoying the challenge of being back in the arena.
“It feels good to be out here fighting again,” he said. “I’ve missed the fight and getting out there and competing and fighting against the golf course and the rest of the guys.
“It’s so much fun and I just missed doing this.”
Woods wasn’t the only golfer to struggle on day three with just four sub-par scores recorded at the Albany Golf Club and no player breaking 70.
Eight players shot over par, though only Dustin Johnson (76) and Henrik Stenson (77) scored worse than Woods in the 18-man field.
SIGNATURE HOLES - 16TH AT ROYAL PINES:
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