High expectations for Tiger Woods fail to come to fruition after three rounds at Masters
The pressure was off Tiger Woods. He wasn’t going to win the Masters. And so the smiles returned as he made his way around Augusta National in the third round Saturday.
Woods still couldn’t dial in his iron shots well enough to score better than an even-par 72 to stand in a tie for 40th at four over, but it was his best score of the week, and he seemed to enjoy the effort.
When Woods hit a good iron shot and found the green at the par-three 12th, he grinned and raised both arms in mock triumph. He then made like an umpire and signaled “safe.” He hit into Rae’s Creek in the first two rounds to make bogey.
The crowd loved it.
“How about that? You know, I just couldn’t do it three days in a row,” Woods joked. “I gave it a little bit more gas on it and made sure that I was long if I did miss, and I hit a good one in there.
“You know, it’s a lot easier to play the hole from the green than it is dropping.”
Woods missed the 11-foot birdie putt, and that was indicative of his week. When he hit the ball close, he couldn’t make putts. And too many other times he wasn’t able to get close enough to the pin for realistic birdie chances.
Through three rounds, Woods had only eight birdies, and he carded only three birdies with two bogeys on the par-fives.
Asked if he knew what was troubling his swing, Woods said, “I know what the problem is. I’m struggling trying to fix it on the fly and trusting it.”
Unlike Woods, Phil Mickelson didn’t find any humor in his round. His game was simply too erratic to provide much solace.
It was ugly from the beginning Saturday, with Mickelson badly hooking a drive into the right trees at No. 1. When he tried to punch out, he whiffed on the shot, not coming close to touching the ball. He made contact the second time, missed the green and eventually suffered a triple-bogey 7 en route to shooting two-over 74 to be at seven over.
A disconsolate Mickelson said, “I don’t have it. It’s frustrating being out there. But it’s still Augusta. I’m trying to make do. But it’s just frustrating being out there when you know you don’t have a chance.”
Mickelson did pull off one spectacular shot, lashing a driver from off the deck at the par-five 8th and converting a nine-foot putt for eagle.
Spain on the board
The Masters has clearly been the favored major for Spaniards, with Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and then Sergio Garcia last year claiming a green jacket.
Enter Jon Rahm, the 23-year-old from Spain who seems like a good bet to take a Masters at some point. He already has reached No. 3 in the world, and in his second visit to Augusta he will play in the second-to-last group Sunday.
Rahm got there by firing a bogey-free seven-under-par 65. He’s six strokes behind leader Patrick Reed at eight under.
“Maybe the Spanish character and the Spanish game is built for this place, right?” Rahm said.
Rahm has said in the past his biggest Spanish hero is Ballesteros, who won the Masters in 1980 and ’83. He sometimes matches Ballesteros’ on-course fire.
“I feel like the same way Seve’s inspired everybody, right?” Rahm said. “It’s just the fact that if you believe that you can do something, you’ll be able to accomplish it.
Rahm, whose two PGA Tour victories have come in Southern California — the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open and 2018 Career Builder Challenge — opened this Masters with a 75 after he finished tied for 27th in his debut last year. He recovered with a 68 on Friday and then the round of five birdies and one eagle Saturday.
“Really, there was nothing that needed to be changed. I was playing really good,” Rahm said.
Spieth laments lip-outs
Jordan Spieth heard the roars around the Augusta course and felt helpless. Reed and Rory McIlroy were making eagles, and he wasn’t able to provide an answer.
He managed only a one-under 71, following the 66 he shot on Thursday and Friday’s 74.
“That’s a birdie roar for Rory,” Spieth said. “Patrick’s roar on 15 [for eagle] while I was over the putt on 17. I knew that whatever it was for, it wasn’t a difference in the outcome of the tournament for me.”
Seemingly confident again in his putting after he struggled earlier in the year, Spieth hasn’t been sharp after the first round. For the week, he’s 21st in the field in strokes gained putting.
“I did a lot of things really well today,” Spieth said. “And there was just a lid on the hole. I might have had five-plus lip‑outs, and I didn’t adjust to the speed dropping down a couple of feet on the Stimpmeter.”
The first two days of Masters coverage on ESPN averaged 3.5 million viewers, up 46% from 2017 and the highest two-day average since 2013 (also 3.5 million).
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