Augusta, GA – Saturday is called Masters Move Day because it’s when the best-performing golfers try to leap over the leaderboard to put themselves up for a championship in the last round on Sunday.
The axiom was correct for Australia’s Cameron Smith, who pushed him four times under 68 on Saturday to three shots from third-round leader Scotty Scheffler, who fired a resolute and consistent 71 below level 71.
But Saturday was also something else: the day the lights turned on.
Since Tiger Woods arrived at the Augusta National training group last weekend, he has dominated all conversations about the 2022 tournament and attracted huge exhibitions of spectators who followed him from hole to hole as if no other golfer in the field had mattered.
But on Saturday afternoon, with Woods limping and working through 18 holes and dropping 16 shots behind Scheffler, the Masters’ focus this year changed.
Woods, who shot 78 on a day when temperatures dropped to the forties, was no deserted on the golf course. But there is a certain sense of reality, as he slipped to seventh place on par in the championship and slipped to tie for 41st.
Woods’ return to competitive golf after a near-fatal car accident nearly 14 months ago has been inspiring, encouraging and a stunning success by all accounts. But with Round Three coming to a close, it was clear that Woods’ return this week would have its limits. From the start of his third run, Woods’ surgically repaired back looked stiff, and crossing the Augusta National’s many hills and hills looked particularly stressful on his right leg and reconstructed right ankle.
Most shockingly, his greatest strength – his stroke, which had been the envy of his peers for a quarter of a century – was his emigration. Woods punched three holes in his last three holes and had four throws on another hole.
After Woods left the 18th hole on Saturday and kept out of the public eye, his gait worsened markedly. He climbed to a raised platform with his feet to address the reporters and answered a question about the health of his back, which he underwent surgery five times.
“It’s not as graceful and loose as it usually is, that’s for sure,” he said.
But Woods, 46, knows he is being closely watched. Although he hasn’t always wanted to live his life in the spotlight as a role model, he’s not shy about the turn this week. When asked what he hopes to show sports fans at this year’s Masters Tournament, he replied, “Never give up. Always chase after your dreams. And I fight every day. Every day is a challenge. Every day presents its own different challenges for all of us. I get up and start fighting from new “.
Woods’ problems began on Saturday after he played reasonably well through the first four holes, which ended with two riders, a bogey and a flying bird. But on the fifth hole, he was visibly sulking after hitting a medium iron bullet from 192 yards. His ball rested 65 feet from the hole, a distance Woods struggled to overcome with four stunning shots, including a third throw from four feet that made a nearly complete revolution around the hole before turning outward. There were three more throws on the ninth hole, which was set up with a poor approach shot that left Woods’ ball 60 feet from the hole.
Woods recovered with back-to-back birdies on holes 12 and 13 and a couple of routines on the next holes. But three more off-target shots resulted in two ghosts and a double bogey on his three closed holes — and nine more.
“It’s as if I hit a thousand players on the lawn today,” said Woods, who spent part of his time after the tour smiling sarcastically at his hardships. “I was trying different things, trying to find it, trying to get something. And nothing seemed to work.”
Schaeffler played his opening nine slots as if he was planning to run away with the championship by sunset on Saturday. He birded the second, third, sixth and eighth holes, allowing him to maintain a five-stroke lead after Friday’s second round. Schaeffler, the world’s best male player, needed these early champions to stay ahead of Charles Schwarzl, who played his first 10 holes in you sub-par to climb to second.
But Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, missed out with four ghosts from behind. However, Smith continued his sterling play in winning the Players Championship last month when he wrapped up with the Sparrows in each of the nine players of the five.
Schaeffler avoided a big number on the closing pit on Saturday after hitting a tee deep in the woods next to the fairway. Forced to take a one-hit penalty kick, Scheffler then fired a long iron shot up the steep hill of the 18th hole, which landed on the green but slammed just above it. Scheffler succeeded in executing a precise chip down the hill and left a three-foot-long throw for a bogey, which sank him.
Woods admired Scheffler, who won three times this year on the PGA Tour.
“We all wish we had a two- or three-month window when we got the heat — and hopefully, the big companies would fall somewhere in that window,” Woods said. “We take care of him in those windows. Looks like Scotty is in that window now.”
Sungjae Im finished third with an average of four strokes in the championship and five strokes behind Scheffler. Shane Lowry was next with an average of two after the third round of 73.