Tiger Woods struggled and shot even-par 71-69 over the first two rounds of the Honda Classic, but made the cut on the number. He found some timing and a putting touch overnight, turning in a solid five-under par 65 to move up the leaderboard.
Rory McIlroy is leading the tournament at 11 under-par, six shots better than Woods. He does not tee off until 1:35 p.m. on Saturday and his third round will not be complete until later in the day.
Even though this is the 15th tournament of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, the Honda Classic is just the second start for Woods on tour this year. He was not impressive missing the 54-hole cut and finishing T-80 in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.
In a start on the European Tour in early February, he made the cut, but finished T-41 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
After those poor finishes, Woods skipped the WGC-Accenture Match Play event and took three weeks off before returning to competitive golf this week at the Honda Classic.
The Honda is the first stop on the "Florida Swing" and the beginning of the run-up to the Masters in early April. With a lack of tournament experience this season, the rust was evident on Tiger’s game in the first two rounds this week.
His third-round 65 is definitely a good sign for the world No. 1, but currently six shots behind the leader will probably not be a threat to win this week.
Woods made birdies at Nos. 1, 5 and 7, but bogeys at Nos. 4 and 9 left him at one-under par 34 for the first nine on Saturday. He birdied No. 10, chipped in for birdie at the difficult No. 11 and added two more birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 for a back nine score of four-under par 31.
He negotiated the difficult "Bear Trap," at one-under par, but missed birdie putts at Nos. 17 and 18, which would have gotten him to within four shots of the lead.
The wind is increasing in Palm Beach for the afternoon pairings and the top of leaderboard may have difficulty on Saturday afternoon maneuvering their golf ball around the water hazards that define PGA National.
The players were able to lift clean and place their ball over the first two rounds, but they are playing the ball down in the third round. Wet spots are still evident around PGA National and the possibility of hitting a mud ball will add to the drama.
Woods got four rounds of tournament play this week in the Honda Classic and will get four more rounds next week in the no-cut WGC-Cadillac at Trump Doral. He is scheduled to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in three weeks, but normally does not play either event in Texas prior to the Masters.
Woods is focused on adding his 15th major and his sixth Green Jacket at the Masters in April. If he sticks to his normal schedule, he will only have played in five tournaments prior to Augusta.
His round on Sunday at the Honda Classic and overall performance next week at the WGC-Cadillac will determine whether or not he needs to add one of the Texas events for more practice before the Masters.