By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods saw progress with his putter on Saturday at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods broke par for just the first time all week as he shot a third-round 68 and finished 54 holes at even par. Granted, he used 31 putts -- his second highest total of the week -- but he managed three birdies and only dropped one shot to par.
The world No. 2 continued to hit his irons well, finding 15 of 18 greens in regulation, his highest total of the week, despite hitting just six fairways. For the week, he's hit 39 of 54 greens in regulation and 22 of 42 fairways.
So given the way he was playing tee to green, Woods said he wasn't overly concerned by the inconsistency with his putter. A TOUR record-tying eighth Bridgestone Invitational title may be out of reach but Woods was generally encouraged by his play.
"I hit the ball well enough, as I said, to be in the top five and could have made a run just by being in that position if I would have putted well the first couple days,” Woods said. “I'm not that far off and just got to play one solid round tomorrow, if we play tomorrow, and get ready for the PGA."
Woods said he worked on his alignment Friday afternoon and began to get his feel back with the putter. "My blade was releasing properly again, and it felt really comfortable," he reported.
Woods said he enjoyed playing with Braden Grace for the third straight day. Grace, who has won three times on the European Tour this year as Woods has on the PGA TOUR, was 7 under through his first 10 holes and finished with a 66.
"Today I hit the ball well and made some putts, so ... I thought I was playing pretty well ... through, I'll say, 11 holes, but I was getting killed by my playing partner," Woods said. "I thought I was playing well, but he was playing better. So it was a good day. We both had some good rounds today, and it was good to finish up on a positive note."
Grace, for his part, seemed to get more relaxed with each day. He opened with a 72, shot 70 with 18 pars in the second round and finished off a 66 on Saturday.
"I think yesterday was pretty much all right, as well, just the first day was a little bit hectic," Grace said. "Obviously the first time playing with Tiger was an experience of its own. Obviously the crowds and everything has been great. But like I say, this golf course, you need to get to know it.
"Yesterday I played a lot better. Obviously I didn't make a birdie or a bogey yesterday, but it was nice to go out there today and know that the birdies were there for the making, and I made a couple."
Grace said all his friends have been calling and asking what it is like to play with Woods.
"I've played with him three days in a row has been unreal," Grace said. "I've learned a hell of a lot from playing with him. The way he plays shots, the way he handles himself and things like that has been great. He's there because he is the best in the world. I've seen it now, and I think (the) people ... that criticize him is wrong.
“He's one hell of a guy, and he's pretty much the nicest guy I've ever played with."