One day he couldn’t find enough fairways. The next day he couldn’t make any putts. The third day he couldn’t get close enough to make any putts.
That leaves a fourth day for Tiger Woods, with little to play for in the PGA Championship.
Eight shots behind going into the third round, Woods didn’t make a birdie until the 16th hole at Harding Park. That was followed by his best shot of the day, an approach from 209 yards to 5 feet for birdie on the 18th. And then it was time to sign for a 2-over 72 on Saturday, leaving him out of contention at another major.
“It’s just like yesterday,” Woods said. “I just didn’t get anything going, and had to claw and fight to get my way back, and didn’t get anything going until the last few holes.”
Woods finished an hour before the leaders teed off, and he was left with another Sunday at a major without much hope.
His victory in the Masters last year was one of the most emotional ever for Woods, who endured a major knee surgery and four back surgeries since his previous one 11 years earlier.
Since then, however, Woods has not been a factor in majors, with missed cuts at the PGA Championship and British Open last year, and a big deficit going into Sunday at the U.S. Open.
Woods said it wouldn’t be difficult for him to get up for the final day at Harding Park, which until this week has brought only happy memories in his previous two experiences as a pro.
“Get ready for the (FedEx Cup) playoffs, and we have the U.S. Open after that. We have some big events to be played,” he said. “And hopefully, tomorrow I can shoot something in the red and get it to under par for the tournament.”
The PGA Championship is only his fourth tournament of the year, and his second in the last six months because of the pandemic that shut down golf from March to June.
Woods used a new putter this week — adjustable weights in the sole and a little longer to allow him to practice longer without strain on his back — but he blamed the last two days on the guy using it.
“I was frustrated that I didn’t get anything going early,” Woods said. “Wish I would have made the putts I did at the end. I was putting for pars, it seemed like, on a lot of the holes.”
It wasn’t entirely a repeat of Friday, when Woods had three birdie chances of 10 feet or closer on the opening five holes and didn’t make any of them. On Saturday, he didn’t have many reasonable chances.
Woods had only two birdie chances from inside 20 feet on the front nine — a miss from 18 feet on No. 2, and miss from just outside 15 feet from the fringe on the par-5 fourth. He had only three chances inside 20 feet on the back nine, converting the last two of them.
It wasn’t enough.
Woods talked about the noise — lack of it, with no spectators — as a new normal. Another new normal might be Woods not being a lock to contend every major he plays. His schedule is more limited than ever. His back is unpredictable. And he is 44, an age at which only six players have won majors.
Only three times in nine majors has he had a chance going into Sunday since his return from a fourth back surgery — the 2018 British Open and PGA, and the 2019 Masters that he won. Age alone would suggest he doesn’t have many majors left to try to win at least three more to match Jack Nicklaus.
“There’s not as many as when I first started playing,” he said. “The reality is that the golf courses are getting bigger. They are getting longer. The margin between making the cut and the lead is a lot smaller than it used to be — used to be sometimes 12 to 15 shots. Now we had, what, nine shots? It’s just different.
“It’s getting tighter and it’s getting harder to win events.”
Woods gets one more day at Harding Park, and then only one month before he gets a cracked at his next one at Winged Foot for the U.S. Open.