After struggling to make the cut and troubled by persistent back problems, Tiger Woods showed promise of better things to come with a battling one-under-par 71 in the third round of the Memorial tournament on Saturday.
Woods, playing his first tournament since February, carded a 71 on the first day, but dropped back through the field with a four-over 76 on Friday, complaining that he was hindered by a sore back and admitting that “aging is not fun.”
It left doubts that the 44-year-old reigning Masters champion would be a serious force in a season shortened and congested after a three-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Woods said his back was “a lot better” as he carded four birdies in his third round and generally swung freely.
“I was moving better today and felt like I did the first day, and consequently I could make the passes at the golf ball like I did the first day,” Woods told the official PGA Tour website.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t make any putts today. Hopefully, I can make a few tomorrow.”
His only major hiccup came at the par-4 third where he dumped his ball in the water to make a bogey and also dropped shots at the ninth and 16th where he missed a short par putt.
“Overall, I felt like I played well today, controlled the ball well. I hit one really bad shot there at three, but other than that, it was a pretty good, solid day,” he said.
Standing two-over-par overall on 218 after three rounds, Woods will have to wait for his chance to win a record 83rd PGA Tour title — he currently stands level with the great Sam Snead on 82 after winning an event in Japan last year.
That victory came on top of his 15th major title at the US Masters last April, a remarkable comeback after serious injuries and personal problems blighted his storied career.
Woods has won the Memorial Tournament, which is hosted by the legendary Jack Nicklaus, five times and was pleased to squeeze into the weekend play on the three-over-par cut line so he could gain more competitive action on a testing course.
“It’s tough. It’s fast. Now that the wind has picked up just a touch, it’s going to dry it out a little bit more. Like I said, hopefully, can make a few putts tomorrow.”
Aside from his appearance in a charity event in May alongside fellow golf great Phil Mickelson and NFL stars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Woods has been practicing out of public view at home and is welcoming the chance to hone his game in professional tournament conditions.
“Playing at home and out here is so very different,” Woods said. “Absolutely happy to get in a couple more rounds playing competitively.”