Tiger Woods' Game in Better Shape Than Meets the Eye at Honda Classic

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 3, 2013

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - MARCH 02:  Tiger Woods of USA plays a shot during the third round of the Honda Classic on March 2, 2013 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Tiger Woods is even par through three rounds of the 2013 Honda Classic and very likely out of contention to win his second tournament of the young PGA Tour season. But the living legend has actually shown more encouraging signs for his game in Palm Beach Gardens than the scorecard indicates.

The Champion course at PGA National is extremely difficult, and the Bear Trap designed by Jack Nicklaus poses one of the most demanding final four holes in golf.

At the long par-three No. 17, Woods fell victim to an embedded ball on a demanding tee shot over the water. After a prolonged hunt, it could not be located, and it cost him a double bogey just near the end of his day.

Otherwise, Woods could have very well shot a two-under 68 rather than a third consecutive 70. Even with that late mishap, he still managed to move up 33 spots on what was an extremely tough day to play golf.

Golf Channel's Jason Sobel, as usual, had something to say about Woods' third consecutive, perceptibly pedestrian day on the course.

It was undoubtedly hard to swallow for Woods to give away all his shots on the back nine after making the turn at three-under.

However, conditions were progressively tough on Saturday, as the wind howled throughout the day and yielded very few low scores. Y.E. Yang shot the best round of the day with a 67, and as a result vaulted 36 places up the leaderboard.

After losing a bit of control with the driver to start the season, this week has been a marked improvement for Woods.

That was especially showcased in Round 3, as he hit over 71 percent of fairways. It was the irons that gave him trouble, but that was the case with the majority of his fellow competitors.

Woods entered the Honda Classic having converted 21 of his 49 putts at birdie or better, and his flatstick was hot once again in the blustery conditions. That was essential to keep the round going, as Woods saw himself gain 2.241 strokes on his competitors through putting.

It's so difficult to put everything together in golf and to be firing on all cylinders. When he does, Woods has demonstrated that nobody has the firepower to compete with him, save for Rory McIlroy.

Having flashed greatness in all areas of his game this week, there shouldn't be much concern for Woods moving forward. This type of grinding for pars is precisely what he'll need to tune up for The Masters.

Before that happens Woods has committed to once again play at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral next week.

Since it is a venue that lends itself to more birdies, it will provide a better barometer as to where Woods truly stands. By the way, he has won that event six times in his illustrious career, and holds the aggregate scoring record in addition to the tournament's lowest four-day total in relation to par.

No need to overanalyze the 14-time major champion's performance in Palm Beach Gardens. He is a prohibitive favorite to win next week, and the Tiger hype machine will be revved up once again.