Woods shoots 69 and gives himself a chance at Honda Classic

Tiger Woods tips his hat to the crowd after finishing his third round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Tiger Woods broke 70 on the PGA Tour for the first time in nine rounds since his return from another back surgery. What mattered more to him was having a Sunday that might mean something at the Honda Classic.

Woods had great control in more strong wind Saturday at PGA National and got up-and-down for birdie on the final hole for a 1-under 69. That left him seven shots out of the lead with 10 players in front of him going into the final round.

”I’ve got a shot going into tomorrow,” Woods said.

The scoring was better in the third round, typical after the cut has been made and in this case with fewer footprints on bare greens. Woods did his part by at least having chances. He putted for birdie on all but four holes, and only one of those birdie chances was longer than 25 feet.

He just didn’t make many.

His only birdies were a 6-foot putt on No. 8, a 15-foot putt on the 13th and the tap-in on the par-5 18th. He also made a 20-foot par save on No. 12 after driving into a bunker and having to lay up well short of the green.

”I think this is probably the highest score I could have shot today,” Woods said. ”I really, really hit it good. I just didn’t get anything to go in there for most of the early part of the round. I gave myself plenty of looks. I just didn’t make anything, and I finally made a nice par putt at 12 and made a nice one at 13. Somehow posted under par.”

By the books, it was the first time in 917 days that he had a sub-70 round, dating to a 68 in the third round of the 2015 Wyndham Championship. In context, this was only his 12th round on the PGA Tour since then.

Woods had his second and third back surgeries after the Wyndham Championship. He made it through only one PGA Tour event in 2017 – Torrey Pines, where he missed the cut – before having fusion surgery on his lower back last April.

In the latest return, he tied for 23rd at Torrey Pines last month and missed the cut at Riviera last week.

Woods was slowed by double bogeys each of the opening two rounds at the Honda Classic – missing a 3-foot bogey putt on the par-5 third hole on Thursday and hitting into the water on the par-3 15th on Friday.

On Saturday, he dropped shots on both par 3s on the back nine by going over the green, leaving him tough pitches back over the bunker. Those two par 3s, Nos. 15 and 17, played as the second- and third-toughest holes at PGA National in the third round.

His goal Sunday was to post a round under par and see how the players ahead of him fare, especially around the closing holes.

”From what we’ve seen in the past, anything can happen these last four or five holes,” he said. ”I’ll probably be about an hour or so ahead of the leaders and my responsibility tomorrow is going to go out there and put something in the red and post a number.”

Woods was runner-up at the Honda Classic in 2012, when he closed with a 62. He doesn’t expect to need a round that low on Sunday, not with this much wind and on greens that make it hard to hole putts.

”I think round was 65 so far this week, so no one’s really done anything. It’s just a different golf course,” Woods said.