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Saturday, April 10, 2010
Tiger scrambles to stay in contention

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The new and improved Tiger Woods reverted to some old habits Saturday, dropping a few expletives that could easily be heard on television during a frustrating day that still put him in contention to win his fifth green jacket.

Woods let go with a few choice words when he hit a poor tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole that led to a bogey. Similar sentiments were expressed on the second and seventh holes at Augusta National.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods withstood the ups (seven birdies) and downs (five bogeys) of Augusta on Saturday to emerge 4 strokes off the lead.

"I was playing as hard as I could and my emotions got the best of me," Woods said after shooting a 2-under-par 70 that left him 4 strokes back of tournament leader Lee Westwood after 54 holes at the Masters.

As part of his return to golf from a nearly five-month absence after news broke of his marital infidelity, Woods has said he wants to be more respectful of the game and would try to tone down some of his outbursts.

In an interview with reporters soon after his round was completed, Woods expressed surprise and did not realize what he had done. "If I did, then I'm sorry," he said.

Woods struggled Saturday, hitting just 8 of 14 fairways and needing 30 putts. Even birdies at the first and third holes could not make up for what he knew were issues.

"I warmed up terrible today," Woods said. "I didn't have control of the ball when I was warming up. I was fighting it then. The speed on the greens was fine when I was warming up, then I got on the golf course and made two quick birdies. But after that, I fought it all day."

And yet, Woods kept fighting to stay in contention. After bogeys at the fourth, sixth and seventh holes, he birdied the eighth, then 3-putted the 10th to fall to 5 under par, 7 shots back.

But Woods birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th holes, made a bogey after a terrible drive at the 17th, then rebounded with another birdie at the 18th.

"Sixteen pars, two birdies, hit every fairway, hit every green," he deadpanned.

It was actually seven birdies, six pars and five bogeys.

"Normally, you're not going to have four great days," Woods said. "I've played golf long enough where I've never had four great rounds in a row. One day is always going to be your off day. And on your off day, if you can keep it under par, it's always a good sign and I did that today."

To win his fifth Masters and 15th major championship, Woods will have to do something he's never done at a major: come from behind on the final day.

Of course, he had never blown a 54-hole lead in a major until the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, where Y.E. Yang overcame a 2-stroke deficit to win in August 2009.

Much has changed since then in Woods' world, but he's looking at it from a golf perspective.

"It's important [to come from behind to win] if I do it tomorrow," he said. "I have to; I'm not leading the tournament."

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