AUGUSTA, Ga. – Two days ago many believed it would be considered a positive week for Tiger Woods if he simply made the cut at his beloved Masters.
Given Woods’ two-month hiatus and inability to hit a crisp shot in his first two performances this year, those thoughts were justified.
But it all seems so silly now.
Following a third-round 68 on Saturday, Woods is tied for fifth place at 6 under par with the likes of Rory McIlroy. Although Woods is still 10 shots behind Jordan Spieth, this was the first time he shot consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Masters since 2005. It was his 16th round of 68 or better in the Masters since 1997, and the last time he finished inside the top 10 in an official PGA Tour event was 595 days ago, at The Barclays in 2013.
“Oh, man, it could have been something seriously low today,” Woods said. “I had it really going. But all in all, if you probably look at it, it should have been about 2 shots better.”
Usually when Woods says something like that, he’s just playing mind games with himself. In this case, however, his score probably should have been 3 or 4 shots better.
Woods quickly birdied Nos. 2-4 to get the patrons at Augusta National on their collective toes. Another at the par-5 eighth hole helped him make the turn at 4-under 32 on the round, the same score both McIlroy and Phil Mickelson shot.
With all the momentum to keep climbing, Woods played a relatively mediocre back nine. He birdied both the famous par-5 holes (Nos. 13 and 15) but made bogeys on Nos. 14 and 18 to shoot 68.
The best moment of Woods’ day, and one that brought back visions of the Woods of old, came on the par-5 13th hole when he hit a horrendous duck hook off the tee but got a lucky bounce. He punched out his second shot, hit his third from 176 yards to within 10 feet and made the putt for birdie. The result produced trademark fist pumps.
“I think what I’ve done all week has been pretty good,” Woods said. “And to come back here and play a major championship and to be in the mix, granted, I’ve got to shoot a super low one tomorrow, but at least I’ve given myself a chance going into tomorrow.”
Lastly, Woods was asked what grade he would give himself for his performance through three rounds at Augusta National.
“A good one, thank you,” he said without hesitation.