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Tiger Woods isn’t quite back yet, falling five strokes off lead

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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Not even Jedi ball-levitating tricks could save Tiger on Saturday. (Getty Images)

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Let's hold off on the re-coronation of Tiger Woods for a little bit.

It's OK to feel a touch let down at Woods' performance on Saturday, just like it was OK to start thinking Woods was truly on his way to winning his 15th major. But on "Moving Day," golf's traditional name for a tournament Saturday, where everyone moves into position for Sunday, Woods moved in decidedly the wrong direction.

[Related: Gallery sings to B-day boy Phil Mickelson after his so-so round]

He began by bogeying four of the first eight holes after bogeying just five holes the first two rounds. A birdie at 9 calmed him down, but he gave away another stroke on the 16th, and chunked an ugly shot out of the greenside rough on 18. He finished the day +4, five strokes behind playing partner Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell.

On Saturday, Woods started to show flashes of the inconsistency that's bedeviled him in almost every tournament, certainly every major, since the scandal: drives that wandered into the rough; approaches that fell just short; and, most devastatingly, putts that just didn't drop. Where Woods was darn near automatic on Thursday and reliable on Friday with the putter, on Saturday he couldn't buy a decent putt. And on a course as treacherous as The Olympic Club, there's absolutely no room for those kinds of preventable errors.

"What they looked and what they putted were two different things," Woods said after the round. "It was just a tough day on the greens."

[Related: Amateur could be missing out on massive payday at U.S. Open]

One of the most oft-quoted stats about Tiger in recent years is that he's never come from behind to win a major. Until very recently, he never had to; he had many of his trophies wrapped up by midday Saturday. But this is a new world, a new Woods, a new field, and nothing again is ever going to be as easy for him as it was before.

Four years ago Saturday, Woods won his 14th major, an all-time classic at Torrey Pines. That tournament, he had to overcome a resilient foe in Rocco Mediate and his own failing knee. So it's not like he hasn't bested adversity in an Open before. But if he's going to take down this U.S. Open -- and he still can -- he'll have to earn it.

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