SAN MARTIN, Calif. – For better and worse, Tiger Woods' third round at the Frys.com Open was nearly a carbon copy of his Friday effort. Woods shot 3-under 68 for a second, consecutive day at CordeValle to reach 4 under for the tournament.
On one hand, the consistency is a sure positive sign. Woods fired his first pair of under-par rounds since Doral in March. He again had symmetrical nines of 34 on each side of the San Martin course, hitting the same number of fairways and greens as Friday.
Unfortunately, the repetitive rounds are not good enough to keep pace with other players in this Fall Series field.
'The golf course could have been had today. I'm pretty sure somebody will shoot 62 or 63 out there pretty easily,' he said. 'Guys can take it deep out there.'
The world No. 51 was in the first group off of the tenth tee after the second round wrapped up early Saturday morning. Woods arrived to the course less than a half-hour before he was scheduled to play, aware his status in the middle of the pack on Friday evening was unlikely to change his place in the split-tee docket on Saturday.
The rushed nature of the start of the round kept Woods off kilter until a birdie at the par-3 11th hole marked his longest made putt of the week. The 32-footer had Woods in position to hopefully Xerox the card from Friday which had three birdies from 14 through 16.
Woods could not replicate that result, however, managing just a plush birdie at the shortened par-5 15th. Woods missed the green at the bookend holes of yesterday's mini-charge, nearly sinking one chip. He was unable to make birdie on the 290-yard 17th hole, leaving his birdie putt just one revolution short.
'That's kind of a no-brainer,' he said. 'Just put the ball ont he green. It's really not that hard of a shot.'
Birdies at the first and second came on the heels of crisp wedge play which had failed Woods twice on the opening nine.
'Initially, I didn't hit the wedges close starting out. You know, I felt good over the putts, hitting my lines. They are a little bit tricky to read,' he said.
It came apart at the third, however, with a fried egg in the bunker. For the second time this week, Woods failed to get out of the sand in his first attempt and bogeyed his 12th hole of the day.
'The body starts rotating and obviously the hands chase,' he explained. 'So if I keep the body speed up, then I'll be fine.'
Losing all momentum, Woods hit a series of rather indifferent shots for the next three holes. Perhaps the outlier was the birdie putt at the fifth – the first hole Woods elicited help from new bagman Joe LaCava. When the putt didn’t drop, hopes of resuming his second-nine run were dashed.
At the shortest hole on the course, Woods nearly fell apart trying to play hero. Long and left with a short iron, Woods attempted an explosion shot from the wispy reeds that went 50 yards past his intended target. He did well to save bogey with a 15-footer from the fringe for a statistical no-putt hole.
Frankly, the final two holes were ho-hum – an easy par at the eighth and a through-the-motions birdie at the par-5 finishing hole.
Perhaps the lack of emotion the round elicited was because Woods had seen this movie yesterday in the same theater.
Pleased with his progress though the proverbial fine-tuning may have not changed frequency Saturday, Woods will be further from the lead than when he began the day.
'I'm improving day by day, which is good. Obviously tomorrow I need to improve a lot and make the putts and post a really low one tomorrow.'
Despite the deficit, Woods should be somewhat closer to finding the form that can put him in the thick of the tournament on Sunday afternoon instead of slated for a tee time leaving him with an early lunch.