AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods will be putting the green jacket on someone new Sunday.
His extended reign as Masters champion will undoubtedly come to a close, as Woods heads into Sunday’s final round 11 strokes back of Dustin Johnson.
On a day when he needed to move, Woods fired an even-par 72. The 44-year-old’s aging back was done no favors by the fact that he had to play an extra eight holes early Saturday morning, part of the completion of his second round.
That meant Woods had to rise before dawn Saturday morning, be on the course for a 7:30 a.m. start, then turn right around to start Round 3.
While those above him were posting red number after red number, Woods plodded along, par after par after par. He made the turn at 1-over on the day, bogeyed 11 and didn’t card his first birdie until the par-3 12th.
As his back 9 wore on, Woods was visibly laboring to bend down to pick his ball out of the cup.
"It's just part of the deal," he said. "If you have long days like this, I'm going to be a little bit sore, which I definitely am.
“I can walk all day. The hard part is bending and twisting. I think that's part of the game, though, and so that's always been the challenge with my back issues and I guess will always continue to be."
The question now is if Sunday will be it for Woods as a defending major champion. Since winning the Masters last April, he has not been a factor in major competition. He showed some flashes on Thursday, and his knowledge of Augusta will give him a leg up even as the years wear on. But on a day when others went low, he spun his wheels.
Sunday, he’ll wake up, play 18 more holes of golf, and then wait to put the green jacket on the newest Masters champion.
“I have not thought about tomorrow yet. I was focused on trying to get myself in contention going into tomorrow,” he said. “We'll see how emotional it'll be after tomorrow's round.”
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