AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was an exciting few weeks leading to this Masters, calling down echoes, believing — maybe the proper word is hoping — that Tiger Woods at 42 would contend again in a tournament like he did when he was younger.
Out of nowhere he was the betting favorite — memory sometimes overwhelms reality — and mainly because of Woods’ presence in the field for the first time since 2015.
Fred Ridley, the new chairman of Augusta National, said, “This is my 42nd Masters. I have never been a part of this week where there’s been any more excitement.”
Three rounds into the 2018 Masters, there’s still excitement, but Woods is not a part of it. The TV ratings Day 1 were great, mostly out of curiosity perhaps, but in 54 holes Woods’ golf never came close to being great, or even very good.
Woods on Saturday finally did shoot a round that wasn’t over par, an even 72, but that left him at 73-75-72 — 220, four over for 54 holes, a figurative million miles off the lead.
With rare exceptions, the golfers who are high on the leader board at Augusta do their scoring on the par 5s, as Woods used to do and as this year’s leader, Patrick Reed, has done. Friday Reed birdied all four. Saturday he eagled 13 and 15.
Tiger, however, was only even on the par 5s — two birdies, 13 and 15 on Friday, two bogies, 2 and 15onSaturday. His comments each round have been similar: Good driving, good putting, bad approaches.
“Í hit my irons awful today,” he said Saturday. The same thing he said Friday.
But he made it into the last two rounds, unlike the previous two Masters winners, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia. And as Woods pointed out about his miracle spinal fusion surgery, “six months ago I didn’t know I’d be playing golf.”
Saturday, for the first time in three rounds, he hit the green at the par 3 12th instead of dunking his ball into Rae’s Creek. He struck a pose from “Rocky,” raised both arms in triumph as the gallery cheered.
“I know what I need to do,” said Woods. “I’m just not doing it. I need to do a better job (Sunday.)”
Woods didn’t have anything worse than a bogey Saturday after a double bogey on Friday on the fifth.
“I feel like I’m driving it better than I have all year,” said Woods. “Hopefully I can hit my irons better. Just haven’t gotten it done. And when I did miss, I missed in the wrong places.”
Woods was out of golf for months over the past two seasons and fell out of the top 1,000 in the world rankings. By making the cut here he moved into the top 100. Although for someone who was No. l for a total of 683 weeks in his career that might not mean much.
“I hope I can get even par or even in the red (under par) Sunday,” said Woods. “That will be the goal and hopefully I can get it done.”