Woods birdied his first three holes, then added a hole-out from a bunker on No. 5 to race up the standings at the 17-man event where he also serves as tournament host. But Woods would bogey the next hole, then cap a back-nine 38 with a watery double bogey on No. 18.
Despite the late setback, Woods remained upbeat and optimistic about his performance through 54 holes.
“If you think about it, I’ve gotten off to some really good starts the first three days,” said Woods, who has played the front nine in 10 under for the week. “Generally when I come back from layoffs, that’s the most concerning part of the game is getting off to, I guess, halfway decent starts.”
Woods made the turn in 4-under 32 and reached 5 under on the day after rolling in a 15-footer on No. 11. But short misses led to back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14, and Woods put each of his last five drives into the sand. The last of that string gave him a middling lie for his final approach, which he deposited in a greenside pond.
Woods now sits alone in 10th place, firmly in the middle of the pack in an event that features several of the game’s best players. It’s a result that he’ll take given how low he set the bar for himself heading into his first competitive start in nearly 16 months.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t really have much because I didn’t know,” he said. “I hadn’t played in a very long time, and I didn’t know what I was going to feel like after each round.”
Woods insists his body feels good with one round to go. While he’s hoping to convert front-nine momentum into a low score like he did during Friday’s bogey-free 65, Woods already appears ready to declare this week a success.
“I’m very pleased to be back and to be able to compete at this level again. It’s been a very, very difficult road,” he said. “I was really, really struggling, and I struggled for a very long time. Worked with my physios and had to be very patient, and was finally able to start building, and here we are.”