After making a very nice charge on the back nine on Friday to put himself in a tie for third—three off the lead of Rory McIlroy—Tiger must have been thinking that the end of his winless streak was within his grasp.
It has been since June 2008 that Tiger stood in the winner's circle of a major, or any tournament for that matter.
When he sunk his final putt on Friday for a back-nine 31 and a second-round 66, he must have felt relief that the long dry spell was over.
And then he played the third round.
The magic seemed to have evaporated much like the morning mist in the warm sun.
Having not made a bogey in the final 11 holes on Friday, Woods promptly made bogey the first hole and set the tone for a very frustrating day around Augusta.
Despite perfect scoring conditions for the third straight day, Woods seemed to struggle with his irons and could not get his putter to cooperate.
He lipped out his par putt on the first.
He was over the green in two strokes on the par-five second and couldn't make birdie.
He left a long birdie putt on the fifth on the lip of the cup.
After being over the green in two on the par-five eighth, again he couldn't get up and down for birdie.
A makeable birdie putt on the ninth slid by.
His foot seemed to slip during his approach on the 10th, leaving him a very long birdie putt that he couldn't convert.
A birdie putt from well short of the hole location on the 11th hole wouldn't drop. Then he missed the come-backer for par.
He airmailed the green on the par-three 12th. Par.
On the par-five 13th, he couldn't find the right level of the green with his approach. That led to a very good two-putt birdie.
After a perfect drive on 14, he had about a club too much on his approach. That led to a par.
On the par-five 15th, he pulled his tee shot behind the trees on the left side of the fairway and hit an amazing hook around the trees to reach the green in two. Three putts later and he had another par.
A average tee shot on the par-three 16th left Woods a tricky birdie putt from the back fringe. He lagged it nicely and took his par.
A tee shot under a tree branch on the 17th left him an awkward second, which he did well to put in the front bunker.
A classy up-and-down (and a sandy at that) and he made yet another par.
Tiger piped one up the fairway on the closing hole. If body language is any indicator, he seemed to be saying, "About time." He then promptly blew his second shot so far over the green that it hit a camera tripod and went back toward the green.
Woods' chip was not his best effort, and he was unable to knock down the 6-footer for par.
The end result was a two-over 74 on a day when he needed a score in the 60s.
The good news for Tiger, and for other contenders like Phil Mickelson, who only managed a one-under 71, is that the leaders didn't run away from them. Surely the conditions were such that they could have, but no one seemed to be able to get on the birdie train and ride it home.
The bad news is that Rory McIlroy seems to have no nerves whatsoever. He continues to hit fairway after fairway, green after green, putt after putt.
For someone to catch him, they are going to have to post something extremely low and hope he comes out of whatever zone he is in right now.
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