Why Tiger Woods' Round Saturday Was Better Than He Thought

Tiger Woods was disappointed with his third-round play at the Masters. Understandable. He posted an 82, his highest score ever around Augusta National. But he has gotten through three rounds with one more to go.
Tiger Woods - The Masters
Tiger Woods - The Masters / Warren Little/GettyImages

“I didn't have a very good warmup session, and I kept it going all day today,” he admitted when he finished. 

He was beaten up from walking the hills at Augusta National for three days plus being buffeted by the wind. Never mind practice rounds. And unlike the patrons who attend, he can’t just sit down for a while and take a break. He must keep going. And, face it, he’s just not tournament-tested.

Woods hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, which supposedly is relatively flat. It certainly doesn’t have the hills of Augusta National. 

After that, he partnered with his son Charlie for the PNC Championship, and he was allowed to use a cart. He pulled out of the Genesis Invitational due to the flu.

This week, he was hoping to make it around what is the toughest annual walk on the PGA Tour schedule without having walked and walked and walked.

That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when he said, “I was not hitting it very good.”

He admitted he put the ball in places he knew darn well he shouldn’t go. 

“I missed a lot of putts. Easy, makable putts. I missed a lot of them,” he concluded.

He used worn out to describe his condition, but exhausted is probably closer to it. Here’s why.

Just walking a flat PGA Tour event takes a lot out of a person who hasn’t been walking much more than average. Four tournament rounds alone are going to be close to 30,000 yards (7500 yards x 4), which is 90,000 feet or a little over 17 miles.  (90,000 feet/ 5280 feet, which is a mile, equals 17+ miles) That doesn’t count practice rounds, pro-am rounds, walking to and from the range, the amount of time he’s on his feet hitting balls, and so forth. These guys are in better shape than they get credit for being.

Not even Tiger Woods can go from zero to 17 miles and expect not to have repercussions. His legs are going to be sore with all that lactic acid build-up. His back is going to ache. And that doesn’t count the golf shots. And it doesn’t count the hills.   

How hilly is it? 

The first hole has a hellacious dip in the fairway that has to be managed to get to the first green, which is the high point on the golf course. Then the second goes down a bunch, 90 feet, which is about the level of the big dip in the first hole.

The two par threes on the front also have dips from tee to green, so much so that when you see the holes on TV, you can’t see that there are people sitting in the valley of the 6th hole watching the action there as well as that on the 16th hole which is parallel to it. The valley of the 4th hole is a crossover where people walk between shots. You never see them because the dip is big.

The 9th has to have a drop similar to the 2nd, perhaps 10 feet less, because the 8th hole which is next to it is uphill so hard that you can’t see where the second shots land. You know this from watching the tournament. And from the 8th tee to the green it’s a hair over 60 feet.

There’s a 116-foot drop from the 10th tee to the fairway in front of the green. That’s more than the height of the Statue of Liberty.  And that’s not the low point in the course.

From the 11th tee, it’s another 62 feet down to the 11th green.  So, it’s down, down, down, the height of George Washington on Mt. Rushmore.

The low point is actually the 12th hole, the devilish par three.  So, it’s down, down, down, the height of the Statue of Liberty plus George Washington on Mt. Rushmore plus a little bit more. Then you have to go back up.

Now to give you the overall top to bottom imaginary view of the course, from the first green – supposedly the high point -- to the 12th green, the low point-- that's a drop equal to Niagara Falls.    

Basically, it’s not hitting the golf shots that wear a person out. It’s the hills. After a while, the tiredness creeps into the muscles and ligaments in the rest of the body and golfers hit bad shots, like Tiger Woods started to do after the 5th hole on Saturday.

Considering the walking and hills, Tiger Woods performed brilliantly.   

The good news in all this is that for the upcoming PGA Championship and U.S. Open, compared to the Masters, the walking will be almost a piece of cake. There’s only one bad hill at the PGA Championship, and it’s the 18th at Valhalla Golf Club. That’s where he defeated Bob May in a playoff.  

The US Open is at Pinehurst No.2, and it has one bad hill on the front side that affects two holes, the 4th and 5th. It’s a dip down and then back up. The rest is more flat than not.

What the terrain in those majors means is that Woods might be semi-competitive at both of those because his golf shots were mostly good, until the tiredness got to him. It was always a big ask for him to be ready to play quality golf for four days and do the walking required at Augusta National.

But what’s better than that is that Woods wasn’t awful. He was by his standards, but for two days, he was respectable. That means, given some additional work and preparation, next year, he might have a chance to get that 6th green jacket. Most importantly, it means he has a shot at another PGA Tour victory and to win more majors, but probably not hilly ones. 

Augusta National is always going to be difficult for him, but there are other courses that aren’t like that. If he plays them, he will have a better chance than he did this week because his drives were in the fairway a lot, and his chipping, sand play, and putting – at least for two days – were all good. 

Ranking Tiger Woods' Masters Victories. light. Next. Ranking Tiger's Masters Wins

Maybe they weren’t up to his usual standards, but he has said he’s won with less than his A game.  Getting three more majors will be the test of that, and it’s what he will have to do if the records are important to him.