LA JOLLA, California (Reuters) - Tiger Woods knows it will take time to fine-tune his swing as he plays his way back toward tournament toughness on the PGA Tour.
Woods, however, showed there is nothing wrong with his short game as he overcame a wild driving display to shoot two-under-par 70 in the third round at the Farmers Insurance Open on Saturday.
In his first official tournament in 51 weeks, since a spinal fusion last April, he struggled to find any rhythm with his swing, missing all but three fairways, several by wide margins.
The 14-times major champion described his performance as “gross”, even though he produced some brilliant recovery shots and ran the tables on the greens on the Torrey Pines South course, where he has won eight times.
Woods will start the final round equal 39th, out of contention but clearly looking forward to getting another competitive round under his belt.
“Hey, I’ll have another day in this whole process of trying to build my way back up,” he said after posting a three-under 213 total, eight strokes behind Swedish leader Alex Noren.
“I didn’t have much but I fought and put up a score and made some putts. It’s just fighting and grinding. I tried as hard as I possibly could.
“Some of my go-to shots aren’t there and some of the shots I like to hit under certain circumstances aren’t there either.
“The only thing I have is my short game and my heart, and my heart got me through today.”Woods has improved his score each day, shooting 72, 71 and 70.
While the leaders attracted a modest gallery, thousands tracked every step with Woods, including three men in red baseball caps displaying the words “Make Tiger Great Again” — a play on words of U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
The fans were treated to a typically eventful round that included several brilliant recovery shots that required bold imagination and deft execution.
His putting was also brilliant early on. Four times on his outward half Woods holed putts from outside 10 feet, and though he did not hole any long putts coming home, he did not get himself in to as much trouble either.
“I didn’t hit it worth a darn all day,” he said. “I was really struggling trying to find anything that was resemblance of a golf swing.
“I was trying to miss the ball on the correct sides because I knew I didn’t have it. Then I had to rely on my touch, my feel, my putting, and that’s been good all week.”
Noren sank a 40-footer to eagle the par-five sixth and added a tap-in birdie at the par-five 18th to card 69 and edge ahead on a crowded leaderboard.
The Swede heads Ryan Palmer (73) by a stroke and is two in front of J.B. Holmes and Michael Kim.
Spanish defending champion Jon Rahm double-bogeyed the last to fall four behind.
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond/Peter Rutherford