AUGUSTA, Ga. – Kevin Kisner didn’t ask, but he had an idea of how his playing competitor, Tiger Woods, was feeling physically after another arduous bout with Augusta National Golf Club.
“I'm sure his leg is hurting,” Kisner said. “I mean, I'm hurting and I'm healthy.”
With temperatures barely peaking over 50 degrees when the pair teed off early Saturday afternoon, an overcast sky that did little to warm things up and 15-20 mph winds, it was more than enough to wear anyone out. Especially Woods with his surgically repaired back and right leg.
“Your body doesn't move as well, and the ball feels like you're hitting concrete there,” Kisner said. “You just have no feel.”
Woods could attest. Not only was he less limber and loose for Round 3 of the 86th Masters, but his putter felt foreign in his hands. The result: a 6-over 78 – Woods' worst career 18-hole score at the Masters, one worse than the third-round 77 he posted as an amateur in 1995 – with 36 of those strokes coming off the putter face.
His performance on the greens included four official three-putts, two more from just off the putting surface and one four-putt.
“It was like putting practice,” Woods said. “I hit a thousand putts out there today.”
Woods said his ball-striking was improved from the first two rounds. He hit tournament highs in fairways (11) and greens (11), and his dart to 14 feet at No. 12 set up one of three birdies on the day.
But his flatstick cost him any chance he had at contending on Sunday, as he dropped to 7 over and outside the top 40.
His woes began at the opening hole, where he hit his approach to 51 feet before leaving the birdie roll 9 feet short and missing the next one.
He also notched three-putts on each of the final three holes: No. 16 (missed from 50 feet and 8 feet for bogey), No. 17 (missed from 65 feet and 18 feet for bogey) and No. 18 (missed from 52 feet and 7 feet for double bogey).
He added two unofficial three-putts, from the first cuts at No. 9 (missed from 66 feet and 6 feet for bogey) and No. 11 (missed from 21 feet and 8 feet for bogey).
The four-putt came at the par-4 fifth, where Woods left his 65-foot birdie putt 6 feet short, ran the par putt 3 feet by and then had his bogey save horseshoe out and send the ball nearly back to the previous spot.
“I just could not get a feel for getting comfortable with the ball,” Woods said. “Posture, feel, my right hand, my release, I just couldn't find it. Trying different things, trying to find it, trying to get something, taking practice strokes and just trying to feel the swing and the putter head, trying to get anything, and nothing seemed to work.
“Even as many putts as I had, you'd think I'd have figured it out somewhere along the line, but it just didn't happen.”
Asked what it would take Sunday for Woods to leave Augusta National feeling like he had a successful week, Woods wasn’t shy.
“Maybe shoot 66,” he said, “and get back to even par.”
In fact, it would take a Sunday 65 to get Woods back to level for the week.