LOS ANGELES — It likely came a day too late to make an impact this week, but Tiger Woods finally looked comfortable out on the golf course.
Saturday, Woods carded a 4-under 67 in the third round of the Genesis Invitational, a round he initially didn't looke like he'd be playing as he narrowly made the cut. It wasn’t perfect and he left several shots on the board, but Woods posted the best round of golf he’s had since his car crash nearly two years ago.
And his body, at least during the round, held up while he did it.
“That’s what’s more surprising than anything else,” Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, told Barstool’s Dan Rapoport. “The golf has been nice. But the fact that he’s holding up, looking healthy and not tiring at the end of rounds is a good sign.”
Tiger Woods: 'Recovery time will be fun'
Woods almost didn’t make the weekend at Riviera Country Club after limping through to the end of his second round. He made three bogeys in his final four holes, the exact opposite of his finish on Thursday, and, at the time, fell just outside the projected cutline. He only survived into the third round after a bit of movement in the field late on Friday afternoon.
But by Saturday morning, Woods was calm. He made birdie on his first hole of the day, and made it through his front nine at 2-under. He missed several putts that could have pushed him lower — including a birdie from the fringe at the par-5 17th that stopped just an inch from the cup — but he made it out relatively unscathed.
It was at the first hole that Woods nearly made a massive jump. His second shot on the short par-5 rolled just past the cup, and he settled for a short eagle putt to get to 4-under on the week.
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Woods then closed out his round with a birdie and a bogey on his back nine, which brought him to 3-under for the week.
“I wanted to get in touch with the leaders today,” Woods said. “I was hoping to shoot something a little bit lower than I did just so I could reach out to them hopefully with a low round tomorrow. I might be a little far away.”
Sure, Woods entered the week saying he wanted to truly compete. His first two rounds left him too bar behind to realistically accomplish that goal. Woods is a 3-under on the week, 12 shots behind leader Jon Rahm, who is three shots ahead of second-plaxce Max Homa headed into Sunday. Still, Woods said that Saturday was "the best I've played" since he returned at the Masters last year.
As long as Sunday doesn’t go completely off the rails, it doesn't really matter where Woods finishes on the leaderboard. If he can recover well on Saturday night and then just walk through Riviera Country Club without being in too much pain on Sunday, he'll leave Los Angeles with plenty of optimism for the rest of the season.
“I can hit golf balls, I can do all that stuff. I can chip and putt back home and I can do all that stuff. But I haven't walked and played a lot, so that's the challenge,” Woods said. “The ebb and flow of adrenaline, I haven't had adrenaline in my system for a while. So getting the numbers right, that's taken a little bit of time.”
When he does get home, Woods knows it’s going to take him a minute to recover.
Only then will he decide if Augusta National is the next stop for him, or if he’ll mix in a PGA Tour stop between now and April.
“Post this event, we'll go ahead and reassess everything and see where we are, see how I recover from a full tournament,” Woods said. “I haven't done this in a while … Hopefully the body will still feel good sometime later next week.
“As of right now, recovery time will be fun.”