AUGUSTA – Tiger Woods got a glimpse Saturday of what the other side of 60 feels like. Though only 46 years old, the creaks, cricks and pops emanating from his right leg brought more grimaces to his face than his previous 36 holes combined at Augusta National Golf Club.

Woods is playing his first competitive rounds since a car accident rearranged the bones in his right leg in February of 2021. But these last 18 holes were more survive than thrive. He shot 78 -- the worst of his 93 rounds in the Masters -- and now sits at 7-over for the tournament.

“Not as limber and as loose as it normally is, that’s for sure,” said Woods, speaking of both his surgically repaired leg and spine.

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It certainly didn’t help his aching bones that Woods and playing partner Kevin Kisner could see their breath on the opening tee box. Officially recorded as 50 degrees for their 1 p.m. tee time, the relentless winds made it made feel low-40s. The pulled-low stocking cap that made Kisner almost unrecognizable attested to the frigidity.

Woods was less bundled-up in a white pullover pulled over a black golf shirt and surely another layer or two. But he kept his hands in the pockets of his black pants as he limped from tee to green. Though limp that may be too strong a word, observers agree that the hitch in his gait Saturday was more pronounced than the previous two rounds, or the practice loops that preceded them.

Woods’ injury was most evident when he lined up putts. Traditionally surveyed in the famous, low Tiger crouch, that endeavor has morphed into something resembling a standing start in a distance race. Perhaps that helps explain the number of putts, which swelled to 36 on Saturday.

“I’m sure his leg is hurting,” said Kisner, who shot 75 . “I mean, I’m hurting and I’m healthy. So, I hope he can get back out here and play a couple more events with us soon.”

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Woods accrued 21 putting strokes through his first 11 holes, lipping out twice from inside three feet while recording a 3-putt and a 4-putt in that span. He finally rolled in a putt of note on the par-3 12th hole, his 14-foot putt dropping in from the right lip for birdie. But that still left him 13 shots behind leader Scottie Scheffler.

He finished his day with three consecutive 3-putts for a total of 19 on the inward nine.

“I hit a thousand putts out there on the greens today,” Woods said. “I just could not get a feel. ... Posture, feel, my right hand, my release, I just couldn’t find it. I was trying different things, trying to find it, trying to get something, taking practice strokes and just trying to feel the swing and the putter head, trying to get anything, and nothing seemed to work.

“As many putts as I had, you’d think I’d have figured it out somewhere along the line, but it just didn’t happen.”

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Had Woods’ metal clubs treated him kinder on Saturday, he could have put quite a charge into one of the more sedate crowds of a fully-attended Masters. Woods’ driver, which betrayed him on the way to a second-round 74, was not only tracking, but was vaguely resembling previous bombs of Tiger lore. He was 5-for-5 on fairways and averaged 322 yards with the first five drivers he hit on the front nine, not including the one he bunkered on No. 8. He hit a 11 of 14 on the day, a healthy 78.6%.

It was the what happened from the fairway in that failed Woods. His approach after a 323-yard dead-center drive on No. 7 not only came up short from 126 yards, it came up short of the bunker guarding the green.

The same thing happened on 11. After perfectly placing his tee shot 315 yards up the right side, Woods came up seven yards short on a 209-yard approach. He putted three feet short from off the green, then lipped out yet again from three feet.

“You take those away and I have normal two-putts, I’m maybe even par for the day,” Woods said. “I did what I needed to do ball-striking-wise, but I did absolutely the exact opposite on the greens.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the second green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Augusta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the second green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Augusta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the second green during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Augusta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Woods seemed pretty well warmed up by the time he got to Amen Corner. There he relived some past glories, at least for a moment. He followed the birdie at 12 by reaching 13 in two for an eagle try. He missed, but the tap-in gave him two birdies and put him under-par on the back. He even made a spectacular par save with a pitch and putt from behind No. 14.

But that was where the script broke away from Old Tiger. He laid up despite a decent drive on the par-5 15th and settled for par. He had another three-putt bogey on 16, then added six more flat-stick strokes on 17 and 18, the final tap resulting in a triple-bogey 7.

It was all very un-Tiger-like. Except for the applause leaving the 18th green. That was vintage Tiger.

The bundled-up gallery seemed to fully appreciate what the chilled bones and ligaments of their rebuilt hero might feel like taking on some brutal conditions.

“I fight each and every day,” Woods said. “Each and every day is a challenge. Each and every day presents its own different challenges for all of us. I wake up and start the fight all over again.”