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Saturday, March 14, 2009
Woods' 68 shows flashes of old form

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

DORAL, Fla. -- We won't be seeing a long putter. Or a left-hand low technique. Or a claw grip. Tiger Woods has putted too well for too long with the same Scotty Cameron model to start messing with success.

Tiger Woods
After rounds of 71 and 70 over the first two days at the CA Championship, Tiger Woods posted a 68 on Saturday.

But he did joke about it Saturday after another frustrating day on the greens at Doral.

Woods wondered what he has to do to get the ball in the hole after what he described as his best ball-striking round since returning from knee surgery. His 4-under-par 68 in the third round of the CA Championship left him pleased and frustrated at the same time.

"I hit it great today," Woods said. "I hit it the best I've hit it in a long time. Granted, I haven't played in a long time, but still.

"I have not controlled the golf ball that well in a very long time, and that was fun. I was hitting shots that I had not been able to hit before, which was such a great feeling. Unfortunately, I'm just not making any putts."

Woods had five birdies and a bogey and counted seven lip-outs in his round after six during the first two rounds. He did hole a bunker shot on the par-4 16th for a birdie but made just one other birdie on a par-4, at the 14th.

This World Golf Championship event is Woods' first stroke-play tournament since he won the U.S. Open last summer. Knee surgery to replace his anterior cruciate ligament came eight days later, and Woods did not return to competitive golf until two weeks ago at the Accenture Match Play Championship, where he was defeated by Tim Clark in the second round.

Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo suggested there might be an adjustment period even reading greens for Woods after so much time away. Most of his golf has been played at his Isleworth home, where Woods knows every blade of grass.

"It's not the stroke," Woods said. "I feel like I'm rolling the ball on my lines at the right speeds. I hit a couple of putts today that were too hard, but other than that, my speed has been good. It's just they are either hanging on the high side or just driving across the front edge of the hole. It's just that close to being some pretty good scores."

Woods' 68 put him at 209, 7 under par. He started the day in a tie for 35th place and cut the distance between himself and 54-hole co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney nearly in half. Woods will start Sunday's final round T-19.

It is not the typical position for Woods, who is used to dominating World Golf Championship events in general and the CA Championship in particular. He has won 15 overall and six CA Championships. He has also won three times at Doral, including twice before it became a WGC event.

Although Woods came into both the Match Play and CA Championship saying that he was at the events to win, it is apparent that perhaps a bit more time is necessary to fully judge this comeback.

Woods acknowledged that playing golf at home in a cart in fast rounds is a different deal than what is required of four- to five-hour rounds on the PGA Tour.

"I'm getting better each day, the feel of playing in the game again at this level is coming back," Woods said. "We used to play 36 holes in this time at home just speeding around in a cart. ... Just the pace of play, getting used to all of that; time to think, all of the different things I had not experienced that in eight months. So it's been awhile."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.