AKRON, Ohio -- It wasn't pretty.
It wasn't particularly effective, either.
But it marked another step of perceived progress for Tiger Woods on Saturday at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods shot his highest score of the week, a 2-over 72, and fell into a tie for 38th in his first full tournament since April, leaving him 13 strokes behind leader Adam Scott at Firestone Country Club.
Despite playing on a venue where he has seven career victories, Woods struggled mightily and missed every fairway on the front nine before finally settling into something of a rhythm on the inward half.
"Today was a struggle," he said. "But I pieced it back together, which was nice. I'm still fighting my old patterns."
That would include a run of less-than-spectacular results, compared to what people are accustomed to. Woods hasn’t won in 22 months on the PGA Tour and has been fighting injury and off-the-course travails for most of that time. He's found 17 of 42 fairways this week to rank T74 in a 76-man field, and isn’t much better at T53 in putts.
Woods explained that he isn’t curving the ball as much with his new swing and hasn't dialed in his launch patterns quite yet, so to speak.
"I've hit it flush all week," he said. "I'm trying to get used to my new setup and lines."
Because he was positioned dead in the middle of the pack after 36 holes and the PGA Tour sent players off both tees in threesomes to beat some forecast weather, Woods was in the first group off the first tee at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. He played alongside Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter, who both are ranked higher than he is in the world ranking.
Data is a bit sketchy, but it's believed to be the first time since his rookie year that Woods played with two higher-ranked players. Woods has skidded 26 positions this year to No. 28 in the world.
Woods has also had some misadventures on the greens, where he has missed two putts from around 30 inches this week and had another take a 360-degree tour of the cup before toppling in.
Yet Watson, who shot 2-under 68 and moved up to T20, still came away impressed by what he saw in his former practice-round partner.
"He didn’t make any putts, that's really what it was," said Watson, a two-time winner this year. "Those momentum putts.
"He's really close. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played really well tomorrow and then won next week."