AUGUSTA, Georgia (AFP) - Tiger Woods was going the wrong way on a long day at Augusta National on Saturday (Nov 14), when his bid for a sixth Masters title was on the rocks.
Woods was four shots off the lead after playing the last eight holes of his second round on Saturday morning, but an even-par third round (72) saw him walk off the course nine off the pace being set by world number one Dustin Johnson.
Woods, the defending champion, said at the conclusion of his second round that he expected Augusta to yield some low scores in the afternoon.
"The golf course is definitely gettable," Woods said.
But he could not take advantage, making bogeys at the par-five eighth and par-four 11th before his only birdies of the round, at the par-three 12th and par-five 15th on the way to a 54-hole total of five-under 211.
"It got a little bit faster," Woods said of the course drying out after Thursday's rain.
"But the putts just still aren't quite breaking."
He said the long days resulting from a three-hour weather delay on Thursday were hard on his surgically fused back.
"It's just part of the deal," said the 44-year-old, who looked stiff as he bent to retrieve his ball as the round went on.
He still produced some impressive shots, landing his tee shot nine feet from the pin at the 12th and draining that for birdie.
At the 15th he had an 18-footer for eagle, and ended up making a two-footer for birdie.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of his first appearance at the Masters, as a gangly amateur.
He slipped on his first green jacket in 1997, and last year rallied on Sunday to win his 15th Major title - and his first in more than a decade.
Woods said this week he still got chills recalling last year's victory, but in his pursuit of a repeat he has not paused to consider what sliding a green jacket onto a new champion's shoulders might feel like.
"Tuesday was a long, tough day for me, but I have not thought about tomorrow yet," Woods said.
"I was focused on trying to get myself in contention going into tomorrow."
With the field again set to go off the first and 10th tees on Sunday, Woods was expecting an early start.
"I certainly will be part of the early part of the split and get after it tomorrow," he said. "We'll see how emotional it'll be after tomorrow's round."