Tiger Woods experienced a mixed bag in his third round at the 2023 Hero World Challenge but found himself in red figures for the second straight day. He enters Sunday's final round even for the tournament after rounds of 75-70-71, and he's double-digit strokes away from the top of the leaderboard.
Getting off to a slow start with bogeys on the first two holes, Woods battled back with flashes of vintage iron play and an exquisite short-game effort to sign for a 1-under 71. His 141 over the last two days marks the first time he has gone under par in consecutive rounds since the first and second rounds of the 2020 Masters played in November.
However, for the third straight day, Woods signed for an over-par score on the back nine at Albany Golf Club. One birdie against two bogeys across his final nine holes put Woods' birdie total at 14 for the week. The bogeys have piled up alongside the birdies as he ranks 18th in the field with 12 bogeys in addition to a double bogey in his first round.
"It was not exactly an ideal start," said Woods. "I got it turned around and was heading in the right direction … it could have been a little bit better than the score indicated. I think I could have shot something in the high 60s today, which would have been nice, but I think it was cleaner than it was yesterday."
Woods hit the fairway on the first hole for the third straight day, but he was visibly slower out the gate. Battling a case of the lefts with his lower body easing into the round, the tournament host was unable to get up and down from sandy areas on his first two holes and proceeded to drop a pair.
He bounced back immediately by taking advantage of the par-5 3rd and added another on the par-5 6th. Finally scoring on the holes he was supposed to, Woods appraoched the par-3 8th with pep in his step and a smoothness to his gait. Now fully activated, Tiger struck his best iron shot of the week as his tee shot from 189 yards settled inside 4 feet to set up his third birdie of the day.
Woods matriculated down the par-5 9th with a couple big hits. Greenside in two, he then showed off his hands from the bunker and tacked on his fourth birdie in a seven-hole stretch to turn in 33, capping off a perfect effort across the par 5s on the front nine.
The par-5 11th once again got the better of Woods on Saturday. With a wedge in hand, Woods' third finished long of the green to set up another bogey. A birdie on the short par-4 14th drew him even on the back side before one last dropped shot on the par-4 finisher gave Tiger his 71.
"I still have game," said Woods. "It's whether the body can do it or not. I'm very pleasantly surprised at how I have recovered every day. As I said, the ankle is fine. I am a bit sore in other parts, but that's OK. We are able to treat that out each and everyday. My activations in the gym have been good."
While Woods claimed his third round felt cleaner, it was a bit messier from a statistical perspective. He connected on only eight greens in regulation and ranked last in strokes gained putting. These shortcomings were atoned for with another strong performance off the tee and a stellar day around the green.
There continues to be plenty to be encouraged about for Tiger. After a slow start, Woods found his groove in the middle portion of his front nine and rattled off a string of birdies. Sharpness is returning to his game, and it will continue to do so with each competitive rep.