March 03, 2012

Tiger’s charge fades on back nine in Palm Beach

Tiger Woods came close to posting a good score Saturday in the third round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He started strong, then fell back when the wind kicked up and settled for a 1-under-par 69.

“I felt like it could be had,” he said. “I hit it good. I putted good. Boy, it was really close to being a really low round.”

Woods made three front-nine birdies, but managed none on the back side. As a result, he has a 54-hole score of 2-under 208 and finds himself nine strokes back of leader Rory McIlroy.

“Probably around four or five, the wind started picking up,” said Woods. “It stayed steady once we got to nine and it was whipping on the back nine. Fifteen and 17 are no fun today.”

Paired with Lee Westwood for the third consecutive round, the duo played in mid-80-degree temperatures and were followed by an enormous gallery that included Tiger’s daughter, Sam.

“That’s pretty neat,” he said.

After a long two-putt par from 40 feet on the par-4 first hole, Woods bogeyed the 464-yard, par-4 second. Following a good drive in the fairway, he missed the green with his approach shot and was unable to get up and down, missing a five-foot putt.

Woods bounced right back with a birdie at the 538-yard, par-5 third hole — his first on a par-5 this week. He hit his second shot just over the back of the green, chipped to seven feet and made the putt. Tiger added another birdie at the 376-yard, par-4 fourth, where he hit a nice drive, knocked his approach shot from 117 yards 20 feet from the cup and rolled in the putt.

Tiger came up short of the green with his tee shot at the 166-yard, par-3 fifth, but hit a good chip within two feet of the cup to save par. He also saved par at the 479-yard, par-4 sixth to maintain his momentum.

Woods secured his third birdie at the 226-yard, par-3 seventh, where he nestled his tee shot just inside five feet and converted the putt.

Tiger two-putted the par-4 eighth hole for par from 16 feet and two-putted the par-4 ninth from 34 feet for par to make the turn in 2-under 33.

On the back nine, Woods made a scrambling par at the par-5 10th hole. He knocked his third shot into the left greenside bunker, blasted 13 feet from the hole and sunk the putt.

Woods two-putted the par-4 11th for par from 20 feet, then saved par at the 422-yard, par-4 12th, where he missed the green from 116 yards with his second shot but chipped to a foot. At the 388-yard, par-4 13th, Tiger drove into the fairway, but hit his approach shot from 122 yards into the left greenside bunker and couldn’t convert a 10-foot par putt.

Tiger missed the green again with his approach shot at the par-4 14th, but nearly holed his chip shot, escaping with par. Then he reached the Bear Trap, starting with the 149-yard, par-3 15th hole. Woods hit a 9-iron 15 feet from the cup but missed the birdie attempt.

At the 434-yard, par-4 16th, Woods found the fairway, then hit a 7-iron from 186 yards 30 feet beyond the hole and just missed the birdie try. Tiger two-putted the 159-yard, par-3 17th hole for a par from 33 feet.

Looking to finish strong, Woods hit a good drive at the 556-yard par-5, 18th and was left with 232 yards to the green. His second shot caught the front-right bunker, where he blasted to eight feet but missed the birdie putt.

On the day, Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens in regulation and used 28 putts.

“On a course like this, I felt like I have to be patient,” said Woods, playing in the event for the first time as a professional. “I can’t get ahead of myself and fire at every flag. This golf course doesn’t lend itself to that. Plus, you never know tomorrow. The finishing holes here, with the wind supposed to switch directions tomorrow, anything can happen around this place.”

Tiger will tee off in Sunday’s final round at 9:20 a.m. ET, and will be paired with Ernie Els and Brandt Jobe.