x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Tiger in the tricky Augusta woods and greens

The former world No 1 is headed for his worst finish at his favourite course and the body language said it all though he remained optimistic of still having a title shot.

Tiger Woods tries to bail himself out on the 17th fairway during the third round. Hans Deryk / Reuters
Tiger Woods tries to bail himself out on the 17th fairway during the third round. Hans Deryk / Reuters

AUGUSTA, Georgia // The body language said it all as Tiger Woods. wasted a good driving display with woeful putting to slide out of contention at the Masters in Saturday's third round.

He hunched his shoulders, grimaced in anguish, put his hands up to his head, uttered expletives and sank to his knees in disbelief at a sweltering Augusta National as he toiled to a two-over-par 74.

Bidding to end a winless streak dating back almost 17 months, Woods began the day just three strokes off the lead and ended it a distant seven behind the ice-cool pacesetter Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

Augusta National has been a happy hunting ground for Woods, a venue where he has triumphed four times and finished no worse than tied for sixth in his last six appearances here.

On Saturday, however, the former world No 1 continually struggled on the notoriously difficult greens while totalling 33 putts to post a five-under total of 211.

"Pleased with the way I played. I just made nothing," Woods told reporters after hitting 12 of 14 fairways and reaching 11 of 18 greens in regulation during the round.

"I hit so many putts early that looked like they were going to go in that didn't go in and also had a couple three-putts out there, so not very good."

At the par-four fifth, Woods's birdie putt ended up hanging tantalisingly on the edge of the cup without dropping in. At the tricky par-four 11th, he missed a two-footer for par. "I pulled it, just absolutely pulled it," Woods said of his bogey there.

Ever the optimist, though, Woods fervently believed he could go on to clinch a 15th major title, and his first since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

"Absolutely," he said with a grim face. "I got to go out there and put together a good round tomorrow and see what happens."

Woods's own track record does not support his confidence as he has never come from behind going into the final round to win a major title.

He can, however, draw some comfort from the record comeback by a champion at Augusta National, fellow American Jackie Burke having triumphed in 1956 after trailing by eight shots after 54 holes.

Saturday turned out to be a testing day for Woods right from the opening hole as he strived to back up his superb six-under-par 66 from the previous round.

He bogeyed the par-four first after his drive ended up in a divot, missed his eagle and birdie putts at the par-five 15th after reaching the green in two and ended a frustrating day with an overall haul of four bogeys and just two birdies.

"I piped a three-wood and it ended up right in a divot," Woods said of his opening tee shot. "Not only in a divot, but it settled down in a divot.

"I thought, I can't go at the flag, I just have to have enough contact to get on the green. So it was a tough start and again I needed just a lot of patience."

Woods, who has been struggling to master a new swing since linking up with Canadian coach Sean Foley in August, did well to scramble a par at the 17th after finding the left rough off the tee but he bogeyed the last when he missed a five-footer.

"I hit the ball well all day," the 35-year-old said. "That wasn't the problem. I just made nothing.

"You take away the two three-putts there, the two unforced errors there and then make a few, it should have been a pretty good round."