PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Instead of making a move, Tiger Woods was stuck in neutral Saturday at the Honda Classic.
Woods never found his tee shot that plugged into the bank below the par-3 17th green and eventually made double bogey. That ruined a good start and sent him to a third straight round of even-par 70 that left him in the middle of the pack.
“If you play well, you can shoot about 5- or 6-under par, there’s no doubt,” Woods said. “There are some accessible pins. The greens are perfectly smooth out there. They are not that fast, so you can be pretty aggressive.”
In the third group off, it was the perfect time to post a low number and try to get into contention.
Woods, however, said his momentum was slowed by mud on his ball in the 10th fairway that caused his shot to wobble toward the green and fall short in a bunker. He missed about a 10-foot par putt, backing off when he heard someone in the gallery take his picture, and muttering under his breath as he walked off the green.
He only had a few reasonable looks at birdie the rest of the way, and then 17th was his undoing.
Woods stared for the longest time after his tee shot came up short. There was no splash, not even a ripple, and there was no signal from a marshal. He never found his ball, despite looking longer than five minutes. A rules official gave him a ride back to the other side of the lake. Woods started to get out by the drop area until realizing he had to go all the way back to the tee.
Because he never found the ball, Woods couldn’t be sure where it landed. If the ball had been inside the red hazard line, he could have gone to the drop area.
“You don’t know, and then it’s a lost ball,” he said.
He said another mud ball was the reason he hit what amounted to a foul ball into the stands left of the 18th green. It landed in the bleachers, bounced over the first row and a fan caught it on one hop. He waited for Woods to arrive, and then tossed it back to him. Woods hit wedge through the green and into a back bunker, the sixth time in the round he had to play out of the sand.
Not only did he fail to get in the mix, he finished before television coverage came on, and that might be the case on Sunday, too.
“Go out there and execute, simple as that, same thing I do every day,” Woods said on his outlook for the final round. “Hopefully, I’ll get it going early.”
Woods was nine shots behind going into the final round last year at the Honda Classic, closed with a 62 and tied for second behind Rory McIlroy.