Tiger Woods fired the worst score of his Masters career at Augusta National on Saturday, shooting a six-over par 78 in the third round while testing his limits in an amazing comeback from severe leg injuries.
The 15-time major champion finished 54 holes on seven-over 223 and walked off the course 18 strokes adrift of leader Scottie Scheffler, his dream of a sixth green jacket in his return scuttled by stark reality.
“I just could not get a feel for getting comfortable with the ball,” Woods said. “Posture, feel, my right hand, my release, I just couldn’t find it.
“Trying different things, trying to find it, trying to get something, taking practice strokes and just trying to feel the swing and the putter head, trying to get anything, and nothing seemed to work.”
The worst prior Masters round for Woods was a 77 he shot in the third round of his 1996 Masters debut as an amateur.
Returning to top-level competition only 14 months after a car crash that threatened his life, Woods and his medical-miracle fightback have been a major focus of the event, spectators lining the course to cheer him more than even the tournament leaders.
Woods fired 71 and 74 to make the cut but struggled through cold and windy conditions in the third round with five bogeys, two double bogeys and three birdies — including bogeys at 16 and 17 and a double bogey at 18.
“The conditions were tough,” Woods said. “It has just been blustery all day. You add in the temperature difference, it was cold starting out. The ball wasn’t going very far.
“I had a tough time. I felt like I didn’t really hit it that bad, but I had four three-putts and a four-putt.
“It’s just like I hit 1,000 putts out there on the greens. Obviously it affected the score. Take those away and I have normal two-putts, I made even par for the day.”
He actually only made 36 putts but after no three-putt bogeys in the first two rounds he had four plus a four-putt bogey and two others that might as well have been.
“As many putts as I had, you would think I would have figured it out somewhere along the line,” Woods said. “But it just didn’t happen.”
Woods was hospitalized for weeks and unable to walk for months after a February 2021 rollover car crash before battling his way back through rehabilitation to end a 17-month hiatus this week, fighting off pain with every step over hilly Augusta National.
Striding through a stamina test over the 7,510-yard layout, the 46-year-old legend played 18 holes for a third consecutive day for the first time since the accident and found his back stiffer than usual in the chilly weather.
“It’s not as limber and as loose as it normally is, that’s for sure,” Woods said.
‘Never give up’
Even faced with his worst tour of the iconic venue in 24 starts, Woods kept his grit and determination about continuing his comeback.
“Never give up. Always chase after your dreams,” Woods said. “I fight each and every day.
“Each and every day is a challenge. Each and every day presents its own different challenges for all of us. I wake up and start the fight all over again.”
Woods is treated with ice baths and physio-therapy after every round to reduce swelling and then get him prepared to compete at a top level.
He was hoping for a record-tying sixth Masters title and 83rd career US PGA victory to break his deadlock for the record with Sam Snead.
Woods has not indicated whether or not he might continue his comeback at other majors this year. He won major titles at Southern Hills, where May’s PGA Championship will be staged, and at St. Andrews, where the British Open is set for July.
Woods has slipped to 973 in world rankings but will leap hundreds of spots next week just by making the Masters cut.