A strong finish helped Tiger Woods salvage an even-par 72 in the third round of the 2019 Players Championship.
After opening the tournament with a two-under-par 70, Woods has seen his score go up each of the past two days. His only problem Friday was a quadruple-bogey seven on No. 17; otherwise he shot five-under par on the other 17 holes.
Woods' problem in the third round came on the front nine. The 43-year-old had a bogey on the par-five second hole after hitting his tee shot into the rough. He followed that up by hitting his second shot into a bunker in front of the green.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, No. 2 at TPC Sawgrass has historically been one of Woods' best holes throughout his career:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Tiger Woods is 3-over through 9 holes of his 3rd round at TPC Sawgrass. His front 9 included a bogey at the Par-5 2nd hole. He had played the hole 33-under in his career entering today, his second-best mark at any hole on the course (-54 on the Par-5 16th). https://t.co/QlACumuboz
The dark clouds would continue to hover over Woods' head on No. 3 and 8 with two more bogeys. He made the turn at three over par for the day.
Getting on the back nine turned out to be the cure for what was ailing Woods. His first birdie of the day came on No. 12 after an excellent tee shot that landed 31 feet from the hole.
Following a run of three straight pars, Woods found his groove on the par-five 16th hole. He got back another shot with a birdie. It was also the first putt he sank that was more than five feet away from the hole (7'11").
Poor putting was a key story for Woods throughout the round. He needed 31 total putts in 18 holes, including 17 on the front nine.
Woods' confidence in his short game got better down the stretch with three putts total over the final three holes. He even found redemption on No. 17 with a birdie—his second on the hole of the tournament—and was able to share a lighthearted moment with Kevin Na.
For the round, though, Woods cost himself 2.7 strokes with the putter. He finished better than average in the first two rounds, including a solid 1.96 mark Thursday.
Even though Woods has played himself out of contention with mistakes over the past two rounds, this event has still been a net positive. The California native looks completely healthy after a neck strain caused him to miss time.
Woods enters the final round at three under par with an opportunity to put up a low number with a couple of minor improvements. He's not going to leave TPC Sawgrass with a win, but a strong finish will provide a confidence boost moving forward this season.