NORTON — The putt was so gust-of-wind close that it brought Tiger Woods to his knees.
He was on the fourth hole at TPC Boston, the same hole he had tried to play chicken with the day before and lost, and again his driver got him into trouble that his wedge had to dig him out of.
He went 289 yards off the tee and into a left-side bunker, another victim of its wide yawn, but got out of it with a pitch shot that left him 26 feet from the hole.
He had seen his share of putts like this in the first two rounds of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Coming into Sunday, he had taken 12 putts of 20 feet or longer. He had made one (a 30-footer).
This one had cup written all over it. He had the break right. He had the speed right.
It came up 4 inches short.
His sigh was as quiet as the gallery’s was loud. His faced dropped, then he did the same, going knees-first to the green. It was the kind of putt that could have sparked his round.
Instead, Woods got up, tapped in for par, and got on with the rest of his day, a 3-under-par round of 68 that left him tied for third place through 54 holes, six shots behind leader Louis Oosthuizen going into Monday’s final round.
Woods was comfortable (before his tee shot on No. 2, he took a few bites of a grilled cheese sandwich as he waited for Ryan Moore to hit). With four birdies, he was aggressive. With just one bogey, he was relatively trouble-free, feeling he still had a shot at his third win here.
“It’s definitely getable,” he said. “You’ve got to get off to a quick start, at least get some momentum going.”
He’ll need crucial putts to drop, though.
“I hit the ball well again today,” Woods said. “And just didn’t make as many putts as I did the first day.”
Beyond that, as Oosthuizen went on a tear and ran away with the lead on moving day, Woods by and large stood still, the difference in his performance from the first two days of tournaments compared with the last becoming clearer.
His opening round included an intimidating six-birdie rampage through the front nine that brought back flashes of brilliance. He couldn’t capitalize on those same holes on Sunday.
For the season, his round-by-round numbers are telling. Coming into this week, he was sixth in scoring average overall, 22d in first rounds, second in second rounds. But in third rounds he’s 59th, and in fourth rounds tied for 73d.
In his last seven tournaments, he’s 16 under par in the first two rounds, and 10 over in the last two.
Oosthuizen shot 8-under 63 on Sunday, matched for low round of the day by Keegan Bradley.
It’s the type of score Woods will likely need to post on Monday to make a run.
“It won’t surprise me if somebody shoots 8 or 9 under par tomorrow,” Woods said. “It may be early, it may be late, but hopefully I’m one of those guys.”
It seems like a lifetime ago, but in 2006 Woods erased Vijay Singh’s three-shot lead on the last day and won the Deutsche Bank Championship by two strokes.
This time, the deficit is twice as large. He shot a 30 on the front nine that day, the kind of golf Bradley and Oosthuizen played Sunday. The kind everyone’s been waiting to see Woods post on the last day of a tournament.
“I did it once before against Vijay,” Woods said. “So maybe I can do it again.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.