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Friday surge falls flat in Saturday 74

Sunday, April 10, 2011

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Tiger Woods watched in agony as his long birdie attempt at No. 5 stopped a dimple short of falling. This isn't 2005. On moving day, Tiger Woods made his move -- in the wrong direction.

A sea of fans watches Tiger Woods line up a putt on No. 6 . Woods, at 5-under and tied for ninth, tees off at 1:40 p.m. today. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff)

After climbing the leaderboard and surging into contention a day earlier, Woods might have played himself right out of the Masters Tournament with 74 in the third round. At 5-under, he trails leader Rory McIlroy by seven shots.

Woods won his four green jackets -- the last coming six years ago after he recorded the highlight-reel chip-in at No. 16 -- when he either led or shared the lead after 54 holes. Woods has never come from behind to win any of his 14 major titles.

Only two Masters champions have come from farther back to win a green jacket. Jackie Burke Jr. overcame a nine-shot deficit on the final day in 1956 for his win. Gary Player overcame an eight-shot deficit in the final round in 1978 for his third green jacket.

"I've got to go out there and put together a good round and see what happens," Woods said. "I'm going to have to put together a good front nine and see what happens."

Woods opened the third round lipping out a short par putt at the first hole. That mistake proved to be a harbinger of his round.

He needed 33 putts Saturday -- seven more than in the second round when he shot 66. Woods three-putted twice and never got on track with the flatstick.

The poor putting came on the heels of a great ball-striking performance. Woods hit 12 of 14 fairways -- his best driving day of the tournament -- and found 11 of 18 greens in regulation.

"I hit the ball well all day. That wasn't the problem," he said. "I just made nothing."

When asked afterward if the putting wore on his other shots, Woods said, "I was hitting beautiful putts. It is what it is."

The 35-year-old Woods will have to go low today if he's going to win his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open. Asked whether he can still win today, Woods replied, "Absolutely."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

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