NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas — Every shot in every round that Tiger Woods plays these days is generally scrutinized and falls into one of two buckets.
The first two rounds of the Hero World Challenge gave cause to the former; Saturday’s 75 in which Woods made the turn in 40 and had five bogeys in his first 10 holes the latter.
The reality, as with most things in life, is that golf isn’t so cut and dry — particularly when taking into account that this is Woods’ first tournament in 10 months. The minute-by-minute dissection is understandable given the thirst, but the picture is not exactly the most accurate interpretation.
That’s not to dismiss Woods’ sloppy start in the third round. It wasn’t good golf, even given windy conditions and on a day when the No. 1 player in the world, Dustin Johnson, was one stroke worse on the afternoon than the guy who has sat in that throne for a record 683 weeks in his career.
Woods isn’t that guy anymore, of course, but after hitting just two greens in regulation through his first 11 holes on Saturday — he missed four of those with a wedge in his hand — he was able to bounce back by hitting seven straight greens to close, making two birdies over his final four holes, proving that he still hasn’t lost his ability to battle back.
Woods has always been at his best when he was at his worst.
“That’s just golf. We’re always going to face adversity. It was frustrating that I couldn’t get it turned around on the easier holes,” Woods said, referencing his abysmal performance on Albany’s par 5s, which he played in two over with two bogeys and zero birdies. “I played four par 5s and I hadn’t made a birdie yet. That’s not very good.”
Not much was early on.
Woods hit just three fairways and two greens on the front nine. A day after torching those same holes in 31 and sending social media into a tizzy, he bogeyed two of his first three holes Saturday, tacked on two more sloppy ones on Nos. 6 and 7, and unlike the eagle the day before on the par-5 ninth this time settled for par.
Still, he didn’t give up and showed flashes of the game he displayed earlier in the week, nearly reaching the drivable par-4 14th before getting up-and-down for birdie, and making another birdie on the par-3 17th.
“I like to be able to fight out there,” said Woods, who through three rounds is four under on the week, tied for 10th and 10 strokes off the lead of Charley Hoffman. “Unfortunately I just couldn’t get it turned around.
“That’s just the way it goes sometimes. I’m not the only one who’s struggling at times out here.”
To that point, six other players in the 18-man field also failed to break par and there were zero rounds in the 60s. The third-round scoring average was 72.88, more than three strokes higher than in the first two rounds.
“I was trying to get back to even par for the day, that was my goal,” Woods said. “I finished three short of my goal but I was headed in the right direction.”
Though there’s still another round to go, the same can be said for this latest comeback.
“I think overall I’m very happy with what’s going on this week,” Woods said. “There were a lot of questions that I had, I’m sure you guys have had, and I feel like I’ve come out on a good side this week.”