AUGUSTA, Ga. - This is how rigidly the Tiger Woods public image is managed: there was a ballpoint pen in the grass outside the Augusta National clubhouse marking where he needed to stand when he met the media.
Somewhere along the line, someone decided the pen sticking up out of the pristine blades simply would not do, and pulled the pen out of the ground, wiping it clean with a towel and dropping a key in its place. And then Tiger came and stood exactly where he wanted to, nowhere near the key.
He was smiling, yes, but it was the clenched grimace of a man who'd rather be pretty much anywhere other than answering the same questions about what went wrong out there today and what it'll take to win tomorrow.
Oh, the day started well enough. Woods birdied holes 3 and 4 to get to +1 and within six shots of the lead, but gave his gains back by the turn. He would go even par through the back nine, the same back nine he torched for -7 last year, to finish +3 and eight strokes back of the leaders, who were just teeing off as Woods wrapped his third round.
At his brief postround press conference, Woods trotted out the usual platitudes about needing to play better. When pressed at the end of the conference about his behavior, specifically his kicking of a club on 16 Friday and a brief tantrum on 13 Saturday, he said, "I apologize for anyone I offended." The words look good in print, but Woods had a look on his face that said he only offered the apology because he was asked, and even then reluctantly.
Woods still seems to think he has a chance on Sunday, and the way that the leaders started to fall apart on Saturday afternoon, maybe he does. But he's sitting in 40th place, depending on where the leaders finish. It's all but impossible, but then again, this is Augusta. Strange things happen here.
Either way, Tiger's still got a lot of work to do.
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