MIAMI (AFP) - Tiger Woods' hopes of a fairytale return faded on Saturday (Dec 2) after an error-strewn round saw him tumble down the leaderboard at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
After solid displays on his opening two rounds had left him at seven under par for the tournament, the former world number one suffered a torrid third round with a three-over-par 75.
It left the 14-time major winner at four under, several shots off the leading group who were still on the course at the par-72 Albany Golf Club.
Woods, who is playing for the first time since February, was in trouble from the opening hole, hitting his tee shot at the first into the sand bordering the fairway.
His second shot hit a rock hidden in the sand, leaving him with a difficult up and down to save par.
He reached the green in three but missed the putt to make bogey.
A further bogey followed on the third when an attempted chip onto the green struck the bank and rolled back.
Two more bogeys on the sixth and seventh put him four over for the day as his challenge threatened to unravel, and a further bogey on the 10th further deepened the gloom.
But Woods kept battling away and finally started getting some joy from his putting, to finish with two birdies on the 14th and 17th holes to claw back two shots.
A further birdie putt on the 18th rolled agonisingly wide.
Woods return this week in the 18-man tournament which benefits his charity is his first event since back surgery in April.
The golf superstar has made only a handful of appearances in the past two years after back problems forced him to miss the entire 2015-2016 season.