Tiger's game 'not quite there' as he hunts for Major record

Tiger Woods hits an approach shot on the 11th hole during the third round of the Hero World Challenge. He finished the par-five hole with a birdie - one of seven birdies he made on Saturday. He also recorded three bogeys and a double bogey for a two-
Tiger Woods hits an approach shot on the 11th hole during the third round of the Hero World Challenge. He finished the par-five hole with a birdie - one of seven birdies he made on Saturday. He also recorded three bogeys and a double bogey for a two-under 70.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NASSAU (Bahamas) • Tiger Woods sees daily progress in his return from a 16-month back injury lay-off and hinted on Saturday that he is still chasing the record 18 Majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

The 14-time Major champion sizzled early for the third consecutive round but fizzled late in firing a two-under 70 at his comeback event, the Hero World Challenge hosted by his charity foundation.

"I'm just not quite there, but it's coming. The great thing is I'm building and each day I've (become) a little bit stronger," said Woods, who admits tiring on late holes.

"I'm definitely not as fresh as I would like to be. No matter how much you work out it's very different than being in playing shape. There are all these different things you can't simulate at home."

The American golfer, who has not won a Major since the 2008 US Open, was asked after his round about trying to catch Nicklaus even though no player has won four Majors after turning 41, which Woods will do later this month.

"I wouldn't be here doing this if I didn't feel like I could play at the highest level," he said. "I have too much pride."

Only four players have won multiple Majors after turning 41 - Old Tom Morris, with three, and Harry Vardon, Julius Boros and Mark O'Meara, with two each.

Woods stood on eight-under 208, 11 strokes behind leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan after 54 holes at the 18-man invitational.

"For three straight days, I've got off to great starts. For two of those days, I haven't been able to keep it going," Woods said. "I would like to get another solid round."

He birdied four of the first five holes but it was no day at the beach for the former world No. 1.

He spent considerable time in the sand waste areas after missing the last five fairways at Albany Golf Club, a 7,302-yard Ernie Els-designed layout.

"Probably couldn't get off to a better start than I did," he said. "Generally when I come back from lay-offs, that's the most concerning part of the game, but I've been able to build a significant amount of positive shots and go under-par early."

Woods took a bogey at the par-five sixth hole but answered with birdies at the par-four seventh and the par-five 11th. But he stumbled with bogeys at the 13th and 14th holes - both par fours.

A 30-foot birdie putt at the fairway-less par-three 17th hole provided a boost but he found sand and water at the par-four 18th for a closing double bogey.

"I didn't hit the ball that poorly today but hit bad putts in the middle part of the round," Woods said.

He said he had no expectations for the week because "I didn't know what I was going to feel like after each round". But he added: "I've finally been able to switch into a competitive mode again".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'Tiger's game 'not quite there' as he hunts for Major record'. Print Edition | Subscribe