For the second straight day at the 2020 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods couldn't buy a putt. For the second straight day at the 2020 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods shot a 2-over 72, and Saturday's 72 was almost identical to Friday's 72.
Woods, for the second straight day, made no birdies on the front nine of the course and went out in 1-over 36 in his third round. He then bogeyed three of his first four on the back nine and was staring at an earlier-than-expected tee time on Sunday morning before recovering with two birdies in his last three holes and a 3-3-3 finish that netted him the 72. It wasn't a great score, but on a day when the field average will likely settle over 71, it wasn't awful either.
Tiger hit his irons magnificently on Saturday, highlighted by a 209-yard shot into the final hole to 5 feet, which he made for birdie. The problem was again mostly related to his putter. He made 28 feet of putts through his first 13 holes before finally making a couple of long ones for par at the end. Over the last two days, he's made four putts over 8 feet.
"I didn't make anything early," said Woods. "I missed a couple balls on the wrong sides [of the fairway], and the greens are getting a little crusty and firm. That was some poor shots that put myself in some bad angles. Just like [Friday], I didn't make any of the putts to get momentum going, to get the round started. I fell behind and had to fight back."
It felt at times that if Lake Merced served as the hole, Woods wouldn't have been able to find the bottom of it either.
Tiger's fight has been impressive. On Friday, he fought to make the cut. On Saturday, he fought to post a score. On both days -- with major No. 16 well out of view -- he could have rolled over and moved on to the next one. That's not how he's wired, of course, and it's part of the matrix of skills that's made him one of the best (if not the best) of all time.
The putter is becoming a problem, though. Woods is using a new (longer) Scotty Cameron stick this week (apparently to assist his back when it comes to practice time), and it's gone about how the old Scotty Cameron went at the Memorial Tournament three weeks ago.
Tiger is one of the great putters of all time, so I'm not sure there are any long-term concerns. But in the short term, the trajectory is not encouraging. Here's a look at Woods' two-year rolling average when it comes to strokes gained putting.
Now Woods -- currently outside the top 50 on the leaderboard -- will try to make a mini-run on Sunday as the rest of the season unfolds in front of him. This PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, a track where he's never been beaten, is not the last thing on his plate this year. In fact, it's one of the first big ones since the PGA Tour restarted in early June. Woods still has the FedEx Cup Playoffs on deck as well as two more majors in the U.S. Open and Masters.
It's difficult to project the condition his game will be in by then, but just as was true at the Memorial, his iron play remains strong. Watching Woods flight irons off the whipping winds of San Francisco was a delight on Saturday morning. It's his first shot and last shot on any given hole that need more attention. Woods isn't putting himself in great spots off the tee and isn't making anything of consequence when he does reach the green.
Maybe he catches something good on Sunday morning in his last major championship round of the season and takes it with him for the rest year. If he doesn't, then Sunday's round is going to be a lot like the last two. A long slog toward an inevitable over-par ending nothing is falling and this 36-hole drought sometimes makes you wonder when it ever will.