Akron, Ohio: Tiger Woods again mixed the good with the bad on his PGA Tour return as he toiled to a two-over-par 72 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday in only his third tournament round in three months.
Shaking his head in disgust with each missed putt or wayward tee shot, the former world number one battled to a one-over total of 211 as most of his rivals gorged themselves on birdies at Firestone Country Club.
Woods, whose previous tour event was the Players Championship in May, recorded four bogeys and two birdies to end the third round 12 strokes off the early lead, a day of frustration summed up by a missed three-foot par putt at the last.
"I didn`t putt well again today," the 35-year-old American told reporters after totalling 33 putts in bright morning sunshine on Firestone`s heavily tree-lined South Course.
"I had two horseshoes, three-putted 18 and then made a bogey with a sand wedge on 16. That`s four shots right there I just threw away."
As ever, though, Woods preferred to dwell on all the positives.
"The iron game was back," he said. "I started getting a feel in my hands and just about every iron shot was on my number, which was great.”
"Today I didn`t hit the ball well starting off but I fixed it, put it together again and really hit it good coming home.”
"I started hitting the ball the right flight, the right traj (trajectory). Every tee shot was flush and everything was back to where it was at the beginning of the week."
Woods is a seven-time champion at Firestone but he started the week under closer scrutiny than usual after missing the last two majors while sidelined for three months by leg injuries.
An opening 68 gave him reason to smile but he struggled with his distance control on Friday on the way to a second-round 71.
That left him seven strokes off the lead at the tournament`s halfway point in a tie for 36th in an elite field of 76 and he failed to gain any momentum on Saturday as he missed four fairways out of 14.
"I`m still struggling a little bit with my set-up and alignments off of tee shots because I used to curve the ball a lot more," said Woods, whose world ranking has slipped to 28th.
"I don`t curve the ball as much anymore and it`s kind of hard to trust when I`m out there in tournament play. Most of my shots are missing right on the edges of fairways so I`ve just got to get more committed to that."