Aside from a ridiculous par save, Tiger Woods low on highlights again in Zozo defense

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – You know it wasn’t the round Tiger Woods was looking for when the highlight was a par he made on the front side.

Granted, it was a ridiculous par, but when you’re trying to build momentum heading to Augusta National and time is on the short side, Saturday’s third round of the Zozo Championship at Sherwood wasn’t what Woods had in mind.

“Well, it wasn’t very good,” Woods said of his round of 1-under-par 71, which left him at 3 under through 54 holes and 16 shots behind leader Justin Thomas. “I hit a lot of balls left today and made the round a lot harder than it should have been. The golf course is playing a little bit harder, but jeez, it’s still gettable.

“Obviously there’s a lot of low rounds and I wasn’t one of them.”

There were 44 rounds posted in the 60s. That’s where Woods, who won this championship last year in Japan, expected to be each day on a course where he’s won five times and finished runner-up five times in 12 starts. But he began with a 76 – his worst score in 51 trips around Sherwood – and then made eight birdies in a second-round 66. But on Saturday, Woods couldn’t get anything going – except the ball going left.

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“I missed a few balls left today and need to get that fixed for tomorrow and clean that up. I was hitting it solid, that’s the thing. I flushed all the shots. They were just starting left,” Woods said. “Hopefully, tomorrow it will be better and I can shoot a low round and take some positives out of this week.

“I feel like today I had a good warmup session and just didn’t quite hit it as good as I did in my warmup. Put the ball in some bad spots. But the golf course was gettable and I just didn’t do it.”

While Woods made three birdies, the best shot he hit came on the par-4 fourth hole. After finding the fairway with his 277-yard tee shot, he missed the green to the left. That would have been enough trouble to deal with, especially chipping to a tight pin, but making matters worse was a tree that stood between Woods and the green. After surveying the situation, Woods flopped the ball through the V-shaped tree and watched it come to a stop less than two feet from the hole.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being superb, you might have given it a 15.

“Well, I had a gap,” Woods said with a big smile as he thoroughly enjoyed recalling the shot. “Had to get it over one clump of branches, but also keep it below the next (clump of branches).

“It all worked out great and had a simple tap‑in. Easy 4.”

Sunday’s final round of the Zozo could be his last competitive 18 before heading to Augusta National to defend his 2019 Masters title, although he said earlier this week he might play the Vivint Houston Open the week before the Masters. But Woods has never played the week before the 20 Masters he has played as a pro, so Sunday’s round has some meaning. And Woods will be grouped with Phil Mickelson, so that could help get the juices flowing.

“Well, I think obviously I’m not even close to even getting in the top‑10, but if I can just play well shot for shot and build on what I had yesterday, that would be a positive,” Woods said. “If I can do something similar to what I did (Friday), I’ll have a lot of positives. As I said, I flushed it today, the ball was just starting left.”


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