Coming off a sensational final-round performance at Bellerive, it was obvious Tiger Woods was inching closer to an 80th career victory. Perhaps it would even come during the FedEx Cup Playoffs, where Woods is expected to play in every event, giving himself four more chances to get it done.
But through 54 holes at the Northern Trust, it's clear that victory won't be coming at Ridgewood Country Club. Woods has carded three uneventful rounds of 71, 71 and Saturday's three-under 68 to put himself at three-under 210, seven off the current lead and already in the clubhouse hours before the leaders tee off. His putter in particular has let him down, as he ranks 77th in the field in strokes-gained/putting, struggling mightily on Ridgewood's tricky greens. But there are some positives to take from the week so far, like his improved play with the driver and another strong three days of ball-striking with his irons. He's given himself plenty of looks at birdie by hitting nearly 75-percent of his greens in regulation, but almost nothing has fallen.
Because of his solid play from tee-to-green on Saturday, Woods was also able to do something he hasn't done since 2015 on the PGA Tour: shooting a bogey-free round. Surprisingly, as well as he's played at times this year, his last bogey-free round came in the final round of the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, when Woods carded a three-under 67 to finish in a tie for 32nd. Nothing earth-shattering, but a decent consolation prize to take from the week.
"I always love doing that," said Woods, who is currently outside the top 40 at Ridgewood. "Today is one of those days where, yeah, I could have had a few more out there. I just — as soft as it got, you've got to try to make birdies and I just didn't do it."
He's had chances to keep the card clean this season, often stumbling late and giving a stroke back. On Saturday, he finished the round off, rolling in his third and final birdie of the day from six feet at the 18th hole.
"There were a few times I've been — I've played a clean card for about 15 or 16 holes, a number of times, actually, this year, and just haven't quite finished off the rounds the way I wanted to. Today I did. Didn't birdie 17, but nice to birdie 18."
While it wasn't a super-low number, it continues the trend of Woods' stellar Saturday play, as he ranks first on tour in third-round scoring average (68.42 coming into Saturday). This one wasn't nearly enough to make him a threat on Sunday, but he'd still like to go low again and take some momentum with him to TPC Boston, site of next week's Dell Technologies Championship.
"I think if I can get to double digits, would be nice. I think that would be a nice way to end it. Most of these guys are going to go really low, and hopefully I can shoot well, one that will get me into double digits tomorrow and give me some nice momentum going into next week."