April 11, 2015

Tiger surges into top 5 after third-round play at the Masters

Tiger Woods is a longshot to win the 79th Masters Tournament on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. But in many respects, he’s already a winner for what he has accomplished the first three rounds.

On Saturday, Tiger fired a 4-under 68 — his lowest score in his last 11 rounds at Augusta. It also marked the first time since 2005 that he has posted back-to-back rounds in the 60s.

Woods, who birdied three of the first four holes and made the turn in 4-under 32, has a 54-hole total of 6-under 210, placing him tied for fifth heading into Sunday. Only four players are ahead of him including 21-year-old Jordan Spieth of Texas, who established a new 54-hole tournament record of 16-under 200.

“Oh, man, it could have been something seriously low today,” Woods said. “I had it really going. But all-in-all, if you probably look at it, it probably should have been about two shots better.”

Paired with Sergio Garcia, Tiger parred the first hole, then reeled off consecutive birdies at the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth, knocking his tee shot at the latter 10 inches from the cup.

After a good two-putt at the par-4 fifth, he just missed a great birdie opportunity at the par-4 sixth. Woods fell short again at the par-3 seventh, although it was a ticklish, downhill seven-foot putt. Woods added a short birdie at the par-5 eighth, then made a nice par-save at the par-4 ninth, where he missed the green right with his approach, chipped about nine feet under the hole and sunk the uphill par putt.

Tiger parred Nos. 10, 11 and 12, giving himself decent birdie chances at all three. At the par-5 13th, he duck-hooked his drive into the trees on the left and dropped his club, anticipating the worst. But he caught a break and the ball wound up on pine straw. From there, he punched out, hit a 7-iron from 173 yards to about 10 feet behind the pin and poured in the putt.

“A stupidly good birdie,” he said afterward.

Woods gave it back with a bogey at the par-4 14th, then regained it with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 15th, reaching the green in two. After a two-putt par at 16, he just missed a 12-foot birdie attempt at the par-4 17th.

Tiger pushed his drive along the right side of the 18th fairway and had to cut his second shot around fronting trees. The ball came up short in the bunker, leaving a long shot with little green to work with. Woods splashed it about 10 feet past and two-putted for a bogey.

All in all, he was pretty satisfied with his six-birdie, two-bogey performance, especially for a guy who has played so little competitive golf the last few months.

“I think what I’ve done all week is pretty good,” Woods, a four-time Masters champion, said. “And to come back here and play in a major championship and to be in the mix, granted I’ve got to shoot a super low one tomorrow, but at least I’ve given myself a chance.”

In what some are already calling the marquee pairing of the tournament, Tiger will tee off Sunday with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at 2:30 p.m. ET.