Tiger Woods’s first tee shot Saturday was so off the mark that a course marshal immediately started waving frantically to the left with his paddle.
That’s how it went for seven straight holes for Woods in the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Left rough. Left of the green on a par 3. Right rough. Right rough. Right rough again. Left rough. Greenside bunker on a par-3.
Woods, who started on No. 10 on the South Course, finally found the fairway with a 3-wood on his eighth hole, the par-4, 442-yard 17th.
Remarkably, despite so many erratic shots, Woods still managed a 2-under-par 70 in his first weekend round on the PGA Tour in 29 months. He was in the middle of the pack going into the final round.
Alex Noren of Sweden two-putted for birdie on the final hole for a 3-under 69 that gave him a one-shot lead over Ryan Palmer. Noren has nine European Tour victories and is No. 19 in the world. This is his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.
The 42-year-old Woods described his round as ‘‘gross,’’ although his short game and putting bailed him out for a decent score.
This is only his second PGA Tour event since he tied for 10th in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015. He had two back surgeries that fall, and fusion surgery on his lower back last April.
‘‘I don’t know about coming together, but it was a struggle out there,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t hit it worth a darn all day. I was really struggling out there trying to find anything that was resemblance of a golf swing. But I was scoring, I was chipping, putting, I was grinding. I was trying to miss the ball on the correct sides because I know I didn’t have it, trying to give myself the correct angles and I did that most of the day. Then I had to rely on my touch, my feel, my putting and it’s been good all week.’’
If he didn’t have such a good short game, ‘‘It would have been snowing on me,’’ Woods said, using a euphemism for shooting in the 80s. ‘‘It would have been snowing.’’
And if he'd have hit more fairways?
‘‘It would be in the 60s. I don’t think I would be contending right now, but it would be in the 60s.’’
Woods has hit only six fairways since Thursday. He said the problem isn’t with his driver. ‘‘It’s just my swing. My feels are different. I'm struggling with my feels out there, hitting certain shots. Some of my go-to shots aren’t there. Some of my shots I like to hit under certain circumstances aren’t there, either. The only thing I have is my short game and my heart and that got me through today.’’
Woods, who grew up some 100 miles north of here in Orange County, has been drawing a big, boisterous gallery. He’s won this tournament seven times, and Torrey Pines was the site of his dramatic 2008 US Open win plus a World Junior Championship as a teenager.
LPGA — Brooke Henderson birdied the par-5 18th hole and had a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Shanshan Feng in the suspended second round of the wind-swept Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Henderson shot an even-par 73 to get to 5 under overall after two rounds and three days at the Ocean Club Golf Course in the event cut to 54 holes after wind wiped out play most of Friday.
European — Rory McIlroy was within sight of a first title in 17 months after the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic, where he lay only one shot behind surprise leader Li Haotong.
McIlroy, who finished his second round in the morning, surprisingly struggled for the first time seven rounds into his comeback from a three-month layoff, and was 1 over par at the turn in the third round. The four-time major champion then recovered with five birdies on the back nine for a 4-under 68 and 19 under overall that put him one behind Li, who shot a bogey-free 64 at Emirates Golf Club.