AUGUSTA, Ga. — There have been plenty of Saturday afternoons and evenings here when the appearance of Tiger Woods’ name on the leaderboard at the 18th hole was a sign of respect and fear. But just before 3 o’clock in the afternoon as the sun began to heat up Augusta National Golf Club, Woods walked up the final fairway as the rotating spot announcing the group on the hole turned.
This is how far the four-time Masters champion has fallen this week at his favorite major championship site: His arrival on the final hole — just as the final group of the day was teeing off on No. 1 — merely doubled as a vessel to deliver a message for a fan.
It’s not hard to see why. Another scuffling, mystifying and frustration even-par round left Woods trying to come up with answers to what’s quickly become a lost weekend in Augusta.
“It’s so frustrating because I’m so close to doing it,” Woods said outside of the clubhouse after his round. “I’m so close to turning it around. I would just hit a couple of good shots in a row and compound the problem with a bad shot in the wrong spot. I know where I need to miss it and I don’t miss in that spot. Each pin you have to miss the golf ball in a certain spot and i have been missing the spots just by a little bit here and there. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t turned out.”
Once again, Woods’ round was plagued by mistakes, poor tee shots and misread putts. The result? Another even-par 72, keeping him at 3-over for the tournament and — incredibly enough — the thoughts of a miraculous Sunday comeback in his head.
“Obviously, I need help from the guys this afternoon,” Woods said. “Regardless of what they do, I need to play a great round of golf tomorrow and hopefully I can do that.”
While Tiger Woods pulling off what would be the greatest comeback in the tournament’s 76-year history is not out of the question, it’s highly unlikely. Woods has struggled through his first three rounds this week, not taking advantage of the par-5s or any other opportunities that have presented themselves.
During Thursday’s opening-round 72, Woods drove the ball all over the course, but still managed to sit only a few shots back of the leaders.
During Friday’s second-round 3-over par, Woods again drove the ball all of the course and then, worse, let it affect the other parts of his game. He dropped minor profanity after tee shots on the 13th and 16th holes, when he couldn’t properly execute his shot. Then after missing a tee shot into the right-hand side bunker on the 16th hole, he dropped his club in frustration and then kicked it to the back of the tee box.
Yesterday, it was more of the same.
Errant tee shots led to awkward second-shots, including when Woods hit a low, line-drive hook on the 13th hole, which again hung on the bank of Rae’s Creek. As soon as he hit the shot, Woods slammed his Nike 3-wood into the ground in frustration.
When asked if anyone had spoken to him about his actions on the course, Woods said no.
“Certainly, I’m frustrated at times and I apologize if I offended anybody by that,” he said. “But I’ve hit some bad shots and it’s certainly frustrating at times not hitting the ball where you need to hit it.”
He thought that problem may have corrected itself overnight.
Woods and his team of shot gurus, including coach Sean Foley, spent hours on the Augusta National range Friday night trying to figure out the flaws in his swing. When he arrived on site Saturday, it was more of the same. And yet, after another 18 holes, the problems were still there and the results the same.
There was no practice session after the third round.
So as Woods heads to his final 18 holes at The Masters, he’s left wondering: What happened this week?
“I was so close to putting it together today,” he said. “I unfortunately did not play the par-5s very well today and I’m telling you it was so close to being a really good round of golf. I just didn’t take care of the opportunities when I had them.”
Contributor Brendan Prunty is the golf writer for the Newark Star-Ledger in New Jersey. He can be reached at email@example.com and can be followed at Twitter.com/BrendanPrunty. This is his second Masters tournament.