NORTON, Mass. — A two-hole stretch explains why Tiger Woods looked so frustrated with himself Sunday during Round 3 of the Dell Technologies Championship.
Those holes also explain why Woods spent an hour and 10 minutes on the practice green after shooting a 3-under 68.
The par-3 11th played as the second-hardest hole on the day at TPC Boston. The par-4 12th was the most difficult.
That wasn’t clear when Woods took on the one-two punch because he stuck it to 11 feet at No. 11 and eight feet at No. 12.
Birdying difficult holes like that is when a player can make up ground on the field, and Woods was in position to do exactly that. His birdie try at 11 would have put him just three shots off the lead. He missed the putt.
His shorter try at 12 lipped out, which has happened too many times to count over the past two tournaments. The dejection he felt at that moment was easy to see.
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Woods still played both holes under the day’s scoring average. It was just maddening in the same way it would be to make miraculous time driving to the airport only to realize you forgot your wallet at home.
“To not birdie 11 and 12 after beautiful 5 irons like that, yeah, it’s frustrating,” caddie Joe LaCava said. “Because not many guys are hitting it that close from 204 and 220 (yards), I got news for you.”
Woods hitting shots like that with regularity is still the bigger picture here. This will be his third consecutive tournament where he’s clearly feeling the swing. He should have another solid finish this week, entering Monday’s final round six shots off the lead tied for 16th.
The frustration comes from knowing he has left more than six shots out there through three rounds and could easily be on top of the leaderboard. It’s not evident in his post-round press conferences, but it’s pretty clear on course.
Once it’s over, he can sit back and look at the big picture.
“I think in general here, in the last probably month and a half, I’ve really turned the corner,” Woods said. “I’ve really hit some good shots and I’ve really played well from tee to green. And it’s just a matter of getting one little hot stretch with the putter and get it rolling and get the momentum on my side.”
Woods had plenty of momentum on the front nine Sunday, with three birdies and no bogeys. He carried that onto the back with that two-hole stretch and just couldn’t take advantage of those perfect 5 irons.
Finally Woods succumbed and made a bad bogey at 13, a three-putt from 23 feet.
He took a look at the leaderboard before his birdie try and knew he was only five shots off the lead, with a chance to get closer. He got a little too aggressive trying to make it happen and missed the 5-foot comebacker.
It ended a streak of 32 consecutive bogey-free holes this week and, seemingly, a chance to win the tournament.
But no one went low on the back nine after Woods’ round ended, so there’s still an outside shot when he tees it up with Brooks Koepka at 12:15 p.m., ET for the final round.
“I’ve got to make a bunch of birdies, get off to a quick start and just get rolling early,” Woods said. “Kind of what Bryson (DeChambeau) did today. Got off to a quick start, birdied the first two. That’s basically what I need to do (Monday).”
DeChambeau shot 8-under 63 while paired with Woods Sunday and ranks third overall this week in strokes gained putting.
With that game plan in mind Woods headed to the practice green with LaCava and business partner/confidant Rob McNamara. He rolled putt after putt, with McNamara filming every so often so Woods could review.
It’s not like Woods hasn’t putted well at TPC Boston. He’s 25th in strokes gained and looks very comfortable with the new TaylorMade Juno prototype that’s been in the bag. Confidence isn’t an issue.
“He thinks he’s gonna make every 10-footer he looks at, and that’s just not the case,” LaCava said. “(I try to tell him), don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Woods knows his game is in a good spot moving into next week’s BMW Championship and, results pending, the Tour Championship at East Lake.
After yet another solid round in which he played better than he scored, Woods spent Sunday afternoon on the practice green trying to figure out how to take it to the next level.
That’s a frustrating process.
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