Woods’ injury was most evident when he was fielding putts. Traditionally studied in the famous tiger low squat, this effort has evolved into something akin to a standing start in a distance race. Perhaps that helps explain the putt count, which rose to 36 on Saturday.
“I’m sure his leg hurts,” said Kisner, who shot 75. “I mean, I’m in pain and I’m healthy. So hopefully he can come back here and play some more events with us soon.
Woods racked up 21 putts through his first 11 holes, lipping twice inside three feet while recording a 3-putt and a 4-putt during that span. He finally rolled in a score putt on the par-3 12th hole, his 14-foot putt falling off the right lip for a birdie. But that still left him 13 shots behind leader Scottie Scheffler.
He ended his day with three consecutive 3-putts for a total of 19 on the inside nine.
“I hit a thousand putts on the greens today,” Woods said. “I just couldn’t have an idea. …Posture, feel, my right hand, my release, I just couldn’t find it. I was trying different things, I was trying to find it, I was trying to get something, I was doing practice shots and just trying to feel the swing and the head of the putter, I was trying to get anything, and nothing seemed to work.
“With so many putts I had, you’d think I would have figured it out somewhere along the line, but it just didn’t happen.”
If Woods’ metal clubs had treated him more kindly on Saturday, he could have put quite a charge on one of the quieter crowds at a busy Masters. Woods’ driver, who betrayed him on the way to a second-lap 74, not only tracked, but vaguely resembled previous bombs of Tiger lore. He was 5 for 5 on the fairways and averaged 322 yards with the first five drivers he hit on the front nine, not including the one he bunkered on No. 8. He hit an 11 on 14 the day, a good 78.6%.
That’s what happened from the fairway in this Woods failure. His approach after a 323-yard deadbeat drive on the No. 7 not only missed from 126 yards, but also from the bunker guarding the green.
The same thing happened on the 11th. After placing his tee shot perfectly 315 yards down the right side, Woods missed seven yards on an approach from 209 yards. He went three feet short from the green and then went out three feet again.
“You take them off and I have two par putts, maybe even up to the day,” Woods said. “I did what I needed to hit the ball, but I did the exact opposite on the greens.”
Woods looked pretty warmed up by the time he arrived at Amen Corner. There he relived some past glories, at least for a while. He called the birdie at 12 reaching 13 in two for an eagle try. He missed, but the tap-in gave him two birdies and put him under par at the back. He even pulled off a spectacular par save with a pitch and putt behind the No.14.
But that’s where the storyline broke away from Old Tiger. He stopped despite having a decent drive on the par-5 15th and settled for par. He had another three-putt bogey on 16, then added six more flatsticks on 17 and 18, with the final hit resulting in a triple-bogey 7.
It was very different from Tiger. Except for the applause leaving the 18th green. It was vintage Tiger.
The bundled-up gallery seemed to fully appreciate what their reconstructed hero’s icy bones and ligaments could feel under brutal conditions.
“I fight every day,” Woods said. “Every day is a challenge. Every day presents its own different challenges for all of us. I wake up and start the fight again.