The birdie putt dropped in, Tiger Woods roared with a swinging fist pump, and the massive gallery at the 13th hole erupted into cheers, echoing throughout the back corners of Augusta National Golf Club.
It was Saturday afternoon, and Woods was making his charge on the back nine at the Masters. The birdie putt at the 13th put Woods at 7-under with plenty of birdies hole remaining on the back nine. At that moment, and even before, Woods had imagined that he would need to get to 10-under par on Saturday to have a chance on Sunday.
By Saturday evening, that moment on No. 13 was about as good as it would get.
Woods finished with a 4-under 68 on Saturday, coughing up 2 strokes with bogeys at the 14th and 18th holes. He finished the day at 6-under par 210 and will begin the final round 10 strokes behind leader Jordan Spieth.
“I’m going to have to put together a really special round of golf tomorrow,” Woods said. “And you just never know.”
On Sunday, Woods will be paired with Rory McIlroy, 25, who entered the week looking to complete the career grand slam. McIlroy is also at 6-under par after shooting 68 on Saturday.
“I definitely feel like I play this golf course better and better every year that I come here,” McIlroy said. “I don't know, I just need to keep putting numbers up like I did today.”
Earlier this week, Woods, 39, joked about his aging body. Searching for perspective, he mentioned that Spieth was in diapers when Woods claimed his landmark Masters victory in 1997. That was before Spieth threatened to go wire-to-wire, but his point was clear. It’s a different game now.
Not that Woods can’t be a factor.
In his first tournament back after a two-month break, Woods has proven he still has the chops to compete at a major championship. It hasn’t been perfect. But after taking two months off to get healthy and refine his short game, Woods is tied for fifth at the Masters entering the final round.
“I think what I've done all week has been pretty good,” Wood said. “Coming from where I came from and having to change my entire release pattern — that was tough. And people have no idea how hard it was to do that.”
This was Woods after his Saturday round. He hasn’t won this tournament since 2005, and in most tangible ways, he is a different player now. After his round, he lamented a “stupidly bad bogey” on the par 4 14th hole. But after missing the Masters last year because of injury, Woods is at least on the leader board.
“It's in Jordan's hands right now,” Woods said. “But you just never know. That's the thing about this golf course.”