- Farrell Evans, Golf
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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- On Saturday at Bethpage Black's par-3 third hole, Tiger Woods' 6-iron to a rock-hard green finished 45 feet from the cup. After leaving his birdie attempt almost 6 feet short, the 14-time major champion missed his par putt.
That would be the first of his four 3-putts in a frustrating 1-over-par 72 during Round 3 of The Barclays that included four birdies and five bogeys. It was an up-and-down day for the 36-year-old, 74-time PGA Tour winner who is trying to win his third FedEx Cup title.
On Friday, Tiger had trouble with his back, but on Saturday it was the slick greens on the Black Course.
"I played a beautiful round of golf," said Woods, who hit 10 of 14 fairways on Saturday and 12 of 18 greens. "Unfortunately I didn't clean up on the greens.
"I've never seen greens change like this, from what they were yesterday to today. Some of the greens have grass, some of them are a little bit on the dirt side. They are just on the quick side."
Woods wasn't the only player that noticed how much the speed of the putting surfaces had changed overnight. Ryan Moore, who shot a 1-under-par 70 on Saturday, echoed Tiger's sentiments.
"The greens today were at least 3 feet faster today than they were the last couple of days," said Moore, who is at 5 under for the tournament and in a tie for sixth. "That's a big adjustment to make. On my front nine, I hit two or three putts that I thought honestly were perfect that I had 9-footers coming back.
"They were getting so slick that you could barely put your putter on the ground."
Moore said the greens at Nos. 2 and 8 were the fastest on the golf course, registering in his estimation at around 18 on the Stimpmeter. The 29-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion said that on those two greens, there was absolutely nothing you could do to keep the ball around the hole.
Sergio Garcia, who is trying to win on the PGA Tour for the second week in a row and leads by 2 after 54 holes, likened the pace of the greens on the Black Course on Saturday to another Long Island U.S. Open venue. He was referring to Shinnecock Hills, where in the 2004 the putting surfaces were almost unplayable in the final round.
"I wouldn't say it was unfair," Garcia said. "It was borderline."
At 4 under for the tournament and in a tie for 10th, Woods will face an uphill battle in Sunday's final round to catch Garcia after the Spaniard carded a 69 on Saturday.
But Tiger believes he still has a chance to win.
"It's one of those things where I think if I played a really good round of golf tomorrow, and anything can happen, these finishing holes are not easy," he said. "If you look at some scores going out this morning, some of the guys were 3-4 under par on the front nine, but that was it. They really didn't do much on the back nine."
On Saturday, the back nine played almost a stroke and a half harder than the front and through the first three rounds almost a stroke more difficult.
"This golf course lends itself to being bunched and all I need to do is hang in there, be patient today; and I figure if I clean up the back nine, post 1- or 2-under par on the back nine, I'm right there." Woods said. "And at one point, I was three back of the lead. Unfortunately, I didn't stay there but hopefully tomorrow I can put it together."
To do that, Woods will have to control the pace on his putts, but that will be a difficult task. That could bode well, though, for Tiger and all the chasers.
On several occasions this season, Woods has had his shaky moments with his putter.
Earlier this year at both the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Accenture Match Play, he pointed to some mechanical problems in his stroke to explain some of his putting woes. But he wasn't making that case on Saturday.
"I felt like I hit good putts but my speed was awful," Woods said. "I don't remember blowing putts by 8 to 10 feet."
Woods will have to do better than his 70.36 final-round scoring average this year if he wants to win on Sunday. He needs to get off to a fast start to have any chance of catching Garcia, who is 2 shots clear of Nick Watney, who shot an even-par 71 in his third round.
On Saturday, after a 321-yard drive and a wedge to the par-4 1st hole, Tiger had a very makeable 7-footer for birdie, but he missed it.
The front nine has two of the course's three par-5s. And Tiger has made nine birdies for the week on the front, compared to only three on the back. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was the last time he played well in a final round. There he shot a 66 that included a 31 on the front side.
A 31 on the front on Sunday would get him near the top of the Barclays leaderboard, where his mammoth presence would put a lot of pressure on the leaders. It couldn't surpass what he did in 2002, when he won the U.S. Open in front of record New York crowds, but it's as good as it might get in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The putter proved to be Tiger's undoing Saturday -- as it was for many players -- in Round 3 of The Barclays. If he plans to rally for victory Sunday, figuring out Bethpage Black's greens is a must, writes ESPN.com's Farrell Evans.