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Tiger Woods ‘optimistic’ after Saturday 71: ‘I'm very excited at how I have felt physically’

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Tiger Woods ‘optimistic’ after Saturday 71: ‘I'm very excited at how I have felt physically’

    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    NASSAU, Bahamas – In a reversal of his opening two rounds, Tiger Woods shrugged off a slow start and finished strong to post a 1-under 71 in the third round of the Hero World Challenge.

    It’s the latest sign of improvement for Woods, who faded down the stretch with late bogeys in his first two rounds. He played the final six holes in 5-over on Thursday and Friday. He played those holes in even-par on Saturday.

    Woods said Friday it was a combination of mental and physical fatigue that led to struggles to close out rounds. He had not played enough to put a complete 18 holes together. Saturday was just Woods’ third competitive round since he withdrew from the Masters and underwent ankle fusion surgery in April. It’s been a “night and day” difference in how his leg feels since the surgery. Still, he said he was surprised and encouraged by how well his body has recovered now that it’s been thoroughly tested.

    Woods hoped to use this week as a “beta test” for how often he might play in 2024. He said ahead of the week the best-case scenario was playing once a month. Through three days, he’s seen nothing to dissuade him from that thought.

    “I'm very excited at how I have felt physically,” he said. “[I have] showed myself that I can recover each and every day, that was kind of an unknown as far as I've walked this far. I've done all my training, but add in playing and concentration and adrenaline and all those other factors that speed up everything.”

    Tiger Woods’ interview after Round 3 of Hero

    That optimism is attributed primarily to how he’s been able to move around. This week, Woods has walked without a limp, which had been noticeable in any public appearance over the last several months. He said he could always hit the ball well, but “I could never get from point A to point B.”

    Now, it’s just about knocking off the rust, which remains a work in progress.

    Errant iron shots led to bogeys on each of Woods’ first two holes. From the middle of the fairway on the par-4 first hole, Woods sprayed his approach into the native area left of the green and could not get up and down. His tee shot on the par-3 second hole landed in a greenside bunker 40 yards short of the back pin location. A well-played bunker shot left him just 4 feet for par, but he missed the putt.

    Tiger Woods birdies No. 6 at Hero World Challenge

    Woods responded with a birdie on the par-3 fifth hole, hitting the green in two and two-putting for an easy birdie. He birdied each of the three par 5s on the front nine (Nos. 3, 6 and 9), another notable development. Considered one of the best par-5 players in the sport's history, Woods had just three birdies over two rounds on the par 5s. He added another birdie on the front side, sticking his tee shot on the par-3 eighth to within four feet.

    Woods bogeyed the par-5 11th after he short-sided himself with his third-shot approach and could not pitch it close to the hole. Those types of mistakes were the ones that lingered with Woods for the first two days, but a quick bounce-back birdie on No. 14 steadied the round. He parred the par-5 15th, where he was a combined 3-over in the opening two rounds, and the 16th, the hardest hole on the course.

    Woods couldn’t get it into the house with five straight pars as he bogeyed the 18th, but overall, he left the round optimistic.

    “I'm very excited how the week's turned out,” he said.

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