PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Tiger Woods arrived at PGA National in near darkness Saturday morning and left before noon seeing some daylight as it pertains to his golf game.
Woods shot his best score of 2014, a 5-under-par 65 that could have been even better in the third round of the Honda Classic. When he finished at 11:05 a.m., he had climbed nearly 60 spots on the leaderboard and trailed Rory McIlroy by six strokes.
“I felt a lot better,” said Woods, who along with Luke Guthrie was the second group on the course. “I didn’t hit the ball very well yesterday. Just kind of grinded it out. Today I struck the ball well and made some putts.”
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Although Tiger’s 65 on Saturday at the Honda Classic looks impressive after a rough start to 2014, he’s just pacing himself with the Masters on the horizon, writes Gene Wojciechowski. Story
While Woods hit only six fairways — and only one on the front nine — he hit 11 greens, chipped in for a birdie, made a couple of long par putts and took just 23 strokes on the greens. He had 11 one-putts for his round and had just 11 putts over the first nine holes.
All of that, and he didn’t birdie either of the two par-5s.
It was just one round, but it was important for Woods to show some form.
Woods has struggled in the early part of 2014, finishing 80th at Torrey Pines, where he missed the 54-hole secondary cut following a third-round 79. And he was 41st at the Dubai Desert Classic. On Friday, a 1-under-par 69 helped him make the 36-hole cut on the number at even-par 140, hence the dawn patrol tee time Saturday.
There was even the worry about another 54-hole secondary cut. There were 79 players who made the cut necessitating another cut Saturday down to the top 70 and ties. That rule claimed Woods at Torrey Pines, but it was pretty clear through 11 holes it wouldn’t be an issue here.
The 65 was just his third of 10 rounds this year in the 60s, but there were flashes of the kind of play that saw him win five times last year.
“Probably the way I hit the golf ball, I felt a lot better,” Woods said when asked what he was most pleased about. “Yesterday I didn’t feel like I had much of a swing but today I hit the ball really solid, which was nice.”
Woods said there was little time to work on it after Friday’s round ended late in the day and with the early-morning tee time. “I had a good range session this morning, came out the very first hole I hit it to 3 feet, spun it back to 15 feet and made the putt,” he said.
Woods lamented some missed opportunities coming in. He had birdie putts inside 15 feet at each of the last three holes and settled for par.
“Today was a positive day,” Woods said. “Hit the ball well and made some putts and got myself back in the hunt.” Woods did admit it would have been helpful to get a bit more under par. Having any chance to contend on Sunday depends on what McIlroy and the other leaders do in the afternoon.