GAINESVILLE, Va. – Tiger Woods’s shaky game passed a big test Friday by following up a low round with another one.
The third round at Quicken Loans National was all about seeing if his new swing could hold up while in contention for his first win in almost two years.
It wasn’t close.
Woods scrambled for the first seven holes before making a bogey on the par-5 8th, and with the exception of a birdie putt at 15, a near-ace at 16 and gorgeous flop shot at 18, Woods had a disastrous day at the office with a 3-over 74 that sent him back down to 5 under par and nine shots behind co-leaders Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell.
Warming up before the third round, Woods was fighting a hook and it carried over to the course.
“Sometimes it’s one of those things you hit it awful on the range and go stripe it on the golf course,” Woods said. “That wasn’t the case here.”
It sure wasn’t.
Woods only found one fairway on the front nine, and when he did find the short grass at the par-5 8th he pulled his second shot left of the green and his ball came to rest on a service road. He blasted a pitch over the green and made bogey.
“At 8 I could turn it around, make a birdie here, and let’s get things going,” he said. “Then possibly sneak up to double digits here quickly after that and get things rolling. I went the exact opposite way. Made bogey at 8 and a double at 11.”
Woods pulled his tee shot left at the downhill, par-3 11th and turned away in disgust as his ball tumbled into the hazard. The double ended just about any chance Woods had of climbing back into contention.
“I was waiting for the one moment, the one shot,” he said. “I couldn’t find it.”
The one positive Woods took away from his round was his short game was very solid.
"Thank god my short game is back," he said. "It's the best I felt with the putter, and I rolled it so pure."
It couldn’t get much worse after the way Woods began the season chili dipping and skulling his pitch shots around Phoenix and Torrey Pines.
“At the beginning of the year, you saw how bad I was chipping it,” Woods said on Friday. “That was probably the worst. Changing [the] pattern of my chipping was so hard to do. I mean, I hit - for three days in a row I hit about 2,000 chips a day to try and fix it. And finally got it to where it was good enough to play at Augusta, and I almost pulled it off.”
Woods clearly found something the first two days at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club with rounds of 68 and 66. But now after another setback with his swing, Woods will be going out early on Sunday to try and post a low number, and at the very least gain some FedEx Cup points to possibly get into the upcoming playoffs with a good showing at the PGA Championship, and, perhaps, the Wyndham Championship.
With a win this weekend, Woods could have snuck into next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament he’s won eight times. But that dream ended after his sloppy third round, and now Woods will have to try and put the pieces back together and hope he has a better start to his final round when he tees off with John Huh at 10:41 a.m. ET.