Tiger Woods, a first-round co-leader, began Saturday's weather-delayed third round of the BMW Championship five shots off the pace. He carded a bogey-free 4-under-par 66, after starting with back-to-back birdies. That still left him five behind leader Justin Rose going into the final 18 holes of the next-to-last leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Which, the weather forecast suggests, could be in serious jeopardy of ending on Sunday. Or even Monday.
Whatever happens, Woods knows that to have a chance of winning, he probably at least needs to match the 62 he opened with Thursday at Aronimink Golf Club. And even that might not get it done.
That's what happens when you don't make enough putts. And that's become a recurring theme for the 14-time major champion, who was just named to to the U.S. Ryder Cup team (as a captain's pick) for the first time since 2012 after sitting out most of the last few years with various career-threatening injuries.
"Today was really frustrating because I hit the ball well enough to shoot a low score," said Woods, who finished second at last month's PGA Championship but is a decade removed from his last major victory and five years removed from his last PGA Tour win. "Joey [caddie Joe LaCava] was tripping in my ear to stay patient out there, because I was getting a little hot."
"I was looking at the board and everyone seemed like they were 3 under through eight, or 5 under through nine. I was only 2 under. I wasn't doing much," said Woods.
After the first two birdies, he gave himself openings but couldn't convert them. At the par-5 ninth, his 15-foot birdie attempt didn't just lip out. It did the full 360 around the cup. Then on 10, a 6-footer for a birdie slid past the right edge. His body language said it all.
He did add birdies at 14 and 16. Yet it almost seemed as if he was losing ground.
Woods is in a four-way tie for 11th at 198, a group that includes reigning Masters champ Patrick Reed, who had a 64. Woods will tee off at 8:10 a.m. — with Webb Simpson and Scott Piercy — hoping to beat at least some of the anticipated wet stuff.
The low scoring did not come as any surprise to the prohibitive gallery favorite.
"At the beginning of the week, we took a look at [the course] and thought that [the winning total] would be near 20, then and [the conditions have] gotten even softer," Woods said. "Now with the ball in hand [players can lift, clean and place it in fairways], you drive it halfway decent and you're throwing darts at the flag.
"There's really no fear."
But he has to take better advantage of that.
"You can be aggressive," Woods noted. "I got to take a run at it, whether it's tomorrow or Monday. I think if we do play, the problem might be ball in hand everywhere, through the green. That would be different. I think I've only done that once in my career. It will be interesting if we even get a chance to play."
Whatever the variables, it doesn't matter if can't get the ball to drop.
"I was just trying to make sure I felt comfortable and solid and was hitting the putts square," Woods offered. "I do drills [in practice] so that I built enough reps, so that I don't have to think. I can go ahead and hit it, so you hit every one flush."
LaCava had another way of looking at it.
"He's just putting normal," he said, referring to everyone else's standards/expectations. "He used to make so many putts that before it was abnormal."