CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Somewhat lost in Tiger Woods‘ struggles on the greens this week at the Wells Fargo Championship is the very encouraging way he is hitting the ball.
His 68 on Saturday at Quail Hollow has Woods tied for 31st and nine shots behind leader Jason Day, who is 10 under.
Woods’ round was his first under-par score of the tournament and might have been really low if he had been able to find more form with his putter — the one he feigned ditching in a trash can after he three-putt the final green.
“I was so close to shooting about 7 under on that back nine,” Woods said after shooting 34 on the closing nine holes. “My ball-striking’s been fine. I just haven’t made anything. If I would have made a few more putts or just putting normal, I would have been up there next to the lead.”
That is a common lament among golfers, but Woods has had his woes putting, taking more than 30 putts for the third straight round.
The difference, however, was that he was able to make several birdies this time.
After making only one on Friday — on his final green — Woods started in a tie for 48th and managed to make six birdies, including on the par-4 14th, where he drove the green from 320 yards with a 3-wood.
But Woods added bogeys at the second, ninth and 18th holes and remained outside the top 30 on the leaderboard.
“I hit it about the same. I just made more putts,” said Woods, who needed 31 putts after having 31 on Thursday and 33 on Friday. “Overall, it was another good ball-striking day.”
Although he has hit just half the fairways, Woods hit 15 of 18 greens, matching his best of the year, which came in the final round of the Masters. He hit 13 each of the first two rounds, giving him 41 out of 54 for the week. He ranks among the top six in strokes-gained approach to the green for the tournament.
Woods has not shot a round over par in 11 weekends rounds in 2018. He’s hitting the ball with plenty of power, averaging 329 yards on the two measured driving holes and 309 yards off the tee overall. As for the putting, Woods said he made an adjustment that made him “more handsy,” allowing for a firmer stroke.
Woods and the rest of the field found a tamer Quail Hollow on Saturday. Starting from the same position as Woods, Peter Uihlein fired a career-best 62, making seven birdies and an eagle. Phil Mickelson had 64, and Rory McIlroy had 66.