Old Tiger. New Tiger. Saturday in Malaysia, the two seemed to appear within a single round of golf.
On the front nine at the Mines Resort & Golf Club, Woods was dialed in. His tee shots split the fairway; his approach shots were judged impeccably. Five birdies across his first eight holes moved Woods briefly into sole possession of the lead, and he seemed poised to take control of the tournament. The 14-time major champion carded a 5-under 30 on the front side and was carrying a look of focus and determination through the sweltering heat.
Then he made the turn.
'On the back nine I made too many mistakes,' Woods commented after the round. 'Bad decisions and bad swings.'
The issues began when Woods was unable to salvage par from short of the green on the 12th hole. His tee shot at the par-3 14th was on target, but barely short – rolling all the way down the greenside bank into a lake in front of the green. Double bogey. A wayward tee shot at the par-3 16th resulted in yet another bogey, and a six-foot putt for birdie on No. 17 turned into a bogey when the putt slid past on the left side and Woods improbably missed the tap-in for par. When it was all said and done, what began with a 5-under 30 ended with a 3-over 39, and the divergent nines left Woods right where he started the day – five shots off the lead.
With one round remaining on a course receptive to low scores, he knows he has some work to do.
'I've got to shoot a low one and hope for the best,' Woods said. 'I'm going to need help. On this golf course, it's going to be hard to make up those shots.'
During the third round, Woods demonstrated that he is capable of an incredibly low score at the Mines Course – the kind of score that he will likely need if he is to contend on Sunday. Whether or not he can avoid some of the pitfalls and errors that plagued him on the back nine Saturday remains to be seen.
Woods tees off in the final round of the CIMB at 10 p.m. ET alongside Ben Crane.
Golf Channel coverage of Round 4 of the CIMB Classic begins Saturday at 10 p.m. ET.