AUGUSTA, Ga. — After a wild, emotional roller coaster ride of a morning, Tiger Woods took the same kind of ride through the third round of the Masters Tournament.
Woods got clearance to keep playing after being assessed a retroactive two-stroke penalty for Friday’s round, then held it together through an up-and-down round to climb within striking distance. He’ll have to pull off his first career Sunday comeback to win a major from four strokes behind co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker.
“You know, it started off obviously different, but I’m right there in the ballgame,” said Woods, who is tied for seventh after shooting 2-under 70. “As of right now I’m four back with a great shot to win this championship.”
That Woods has any chance at all is a stroke of fortune that offsets the bad bounce he got off of the flagstick Friday on the 15th green. The rules committee felt guilty for not properly handling its investigation into Woods‘ improper drop on the 15th hole. Because it cleared him of any wrongdoing before he signed his scorecard Friday for bogey instead of a triple on 15, it exercised its discretion by not disqualifying him before Saturday’s round despite his having signed an incorrect scorecard.
Once cleared to play, Woods opened with birdie on the difficult first hole. He bogeyed No. 4, birdied No. 7 and looked primed for a run when he faced a 4-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole.
After that putt did a 360-degree turn around the rim of the cup, Woods got off track. He bogeyed 9 and 11 and fell back to even par and six shots off the leaders at the time.
“It was tough out there – this is a normal Masters now,” he said of the pace on the greens, which had picked up considerably since the first two rounds. “I missed everything low because they were so much faster.”
Birdies at 12, 13 and a near-eagle on 15 moved him back into the top 10, and he hung on with up-and-down par saves on each of the last three holes.
“The key was those three saves I made on 16, 17 and 18 that kept me in reach,” Woods said.
Woods said the events of the morning dissolved after he went to the gym and had no impact on his play.
“Got all activated and ready to go, and once I came to the golf course I was ready to play. I was five back at the beginning of the day and hoping to cut that at least in half. I’m four back now.”
“As we all know, if you’re within six shots starting the back nine, you’ve still got a shot at this thing,” he said. “Anything can happen.”