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Tiger's hitting it great, but putting it bad

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - Now it's the putting. Now it's the best part of his game that is baffling Tiger Woods.

"I striped it all day,'' Woods said of his tee balls and iron shots, "but I wasn't making anything.''

He's far back after three rounds of a British Open which, because it was played on the Old Course where he won in 2000 and 2005, might have proven to be restorative, but has not.

He's 12 behind with 18 holes to go, and although Paul Lawrie, in that 1999 Open at Carnoustie infamous for Jean Van de Velde's final-hole disaster, came from 10 behind to win, Tiger has no chance of making up 12 shots.

And so he will go a third straight major this year and seven straight over the last two years without a first place, the last victory coming in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

The problems, said Tiger - he had back-to-back 3-putts at 13 and 14 and then 3-putted the 357-yard 18th for a par after driving the green - are not the result of the new putter, the club from Nike which replaced the Scotty Cameron by Titleist. Instead, they are the result of the "puttee,'' the person making the strokes.

Woods came in with his second straight 1-over-par 73, and is at 3-under 213 for 54 holes, tied for 18th with several others including 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.

"I've just got to get off to a good start,'' said Woods. "[Saturday] I had a makable putt at one, a horseshoe on two [a 50-footer which rimmed] and a makable putt at three. Those go in and it's a different ballgame.''

Golfers are always talking about what might have been. For Woods - winner of 14 majors - the words were unusual until this year, when after returning from rehab for his marital infidelities, Tiger has been unable to return to previous success.

"Ironically enough,'' he said with a bit of a smile, "now I'm driving it beautifully. You have to be patient. I was as patient as I could be, plodding along. I just didn't get anything going.''

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