MEXICO CITY – Tiger Woods was five shots out of first place as he stood in the middle of the par-5 15th hole at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Saturday’s third round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
With 251 yards between him and the flagstick, with a 5-iron in his hand, Woods was one solid shot from putting for eagle. One solid shot from putting heat on the leaders. One solid shot from making his massive gallery roar.
He was an eagle away from making the red shirt mean something on Sunday.
Fifteen minutes later, he was out of contention.
Woods pushed the 5-iron into a bunker and then shocked all in attendance and those watching at home by taking four putts from 25 feet to finish the hole. He three-putted from inside 4 feet to finish off his double-bogey 7.
“His whole day changed on one swing,” said Paul Azinger, lead golf analyst for NBC Sports/Golf Channel. “The 5-iron from the middle of the fairway on 15 into that right bunker left him a tricky bunker shot. He didn’t hit a good one. Four putts later, he’s the only double bogey on the easiest hole on the course.”
It was the 12th four-putt in Woods’ career and just his third four-putt on the PGA Tour in 13 years.
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On the next hole, he three-putted from 40 feet – his fourth three-putt of the week.
And for just the second time since the start of the 2018 season, Woods refused to talk to the media after the round.
“What are you going to say?” said Joe LaCava, his caddie.
Ironically, Woods made a 7-footer for birdie to end his round. Unfortunately, it was his 35th putt of the round. He signed for a 1-under-par 70 that left him at 6 under through 54 holes and 10 shots behind pace-setting Dustin Johnson.
Woods’ putter wasn’t the only thing that left him wanting. On the eighth hole, as he punched out from behind a tree, the 9-iron he was using slammed into said tree and bent. Woods was unable to bend it back into shape and was down to 13 clubs. One two occasions, he wished he had the 9-iron – the first when he had to muscle a pitching wedge instead, the second when he laid back off the tee to give himself a full 8-iron into the green.
All in all, it was just one of those days for Woods.
After going birdie-birdie to start the round, however, it looked like it was going to be a special day. Then he three-putted on the third hole. As much as he tried, Woods just couldn’t keep momentum on his side, stung by approach shots that came up well short or spun back far too far.
Still, as he plodded along, he did enough to keep himself in the tournament. But then came the 15th, and then the 16th, and Woods was out of it.
“Of course, you’re shocked when you see that,” LaCava said.
Woods hopes to have the 9-iron shaft bent back into place. He hopes to gather some type of momentum Sunday before leaving Mexico. He hopes to find some life in a putter that has left him feeling ill.
“We’re going in the right direction,” LaCava said. “Once we get the putter going, once we get the putter hot, we’re right there. He has done a lot of good things this week and he’ll build off that.”