Tiger Woods fired a one-under 69 in Saturday's third round of the 2018 Honda Classic to leave him seven strokes behind the lead with the afternoon wave of play ongoing at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
It could have easily developed into a spectacular day for the 14-time major champion, who put together the best ball-striking round of his latest comeback attempt. His consistency off the tee and with his irons wasn't matched on the green, however, as he failed to convert several birdie opportunities.
Woods, who opened with seven straight pars, finished the round with three birdies and two bogeys to reach even par overall after 54 holes.
A lot of promising signs emerged throughout the day.
Not only was he finding the fairway more frequently off the tee, but he was taking some mighty lashes at the ball and showed no signs of discomfort. For as much as every score he posts is scrutinized, staying healthy remains the most important factor right now—not where he finishes.
Golf Channel's Justin Ray provided a stat to showcase just how hard Tiger was swinging:
That's almost unbelievable when you consider how often the 42-year-old superstar would grimace or grab his troublesome back during his prior returns from injury when he took a big cut.
Alas, the putting that's often saved Woods in recent rounds when his driving got him in a lot of trouble was just a fraction off all day long.
Five times on the front nine alone he burned the edge of the hole and missed a putt by less than two feet. The entire complexion of the third round could have changed if even a couple of those fell, allowing him to make an early charge up the leaderboard.
He finally connected on a mid-range birdie putt at No. 13, as the PGA Tour highlighted:
Woods' first bogey of the day came following an errant tee shot on the par-three 15th. Even there, however, his shot from the rough was less than a foot away from releasing perfectly onto the green for what would have likely been a simple par putt.
It was almost an instant replay on the par-three 17th. His tee shot once again found the greenside rough, and while this time his high-lofted pitch did find the green, the ensuing putt came up short and he dropped back to even for the round.
Tiger got one of those shots back on the closing hole after an outstanding chip from just off the 18th green set up a tap-in birdie to close out a round that was better than the middling score would indicate.
ESPN's Mike Greenberg provided his take on Woods' day:
Ewen Murray of Sky Sports discussed the longtime top-ranked golfer's latest return:
Looking ahead, Woods probably isn't going to win the tournament. PGA National has played tough all week, and that's unlikely to change Sunday, which means making up the type of ground he'd need to would require both flawless play and some help in terms of other golfers faltering down the stretch.
He's shown enough positive signs over the last three days to believe his first PGA Tour victory since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational may be on the horizon, though.