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Nation, World Sports

Woods falters with 75 in 3rd round of Hero World Challenge, falls 10 back

| Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, 8:03 p.m.

NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods fell behind early and never recovered. Charley Hoffman pulled away late and made himself hard to beat.

Hoffman handled the blustery conditions Saturday in the Hero World Challenge for a 2-under-par 70, one of only five rounds under par, and built a five-shot lead going into the final round at Albany Golf Club.

Woods went 11 consecutive holes without hitting a green in regulation. He went 14 holes until making his first birdie. He had to settle for a 75, leaving him 10 shots out of the lead and finding consolation in the way he feels and the way he fought to keep it from getting worse.

“It's nice to be part of the fight again,” Woods said. “Fighting against the golf course, fighting against the guys, that's fun. I just haven't done it a whole lot in the last few years.”

The strong wind took the air out of any hopes that Woods, playing for the first time in 10 months after a fourth back surgery, might even get into contention in his celebrated return. He opened with rounds of 69-68. Those two rounds were enough for his odds of winning the Masters to plunge to 15-1, the same as Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm. And then a warm afternoon brought a cold dash of reality.

Woods opened with four bogeys in seven holes. He played four par 5s without having a birdie putt on any of them. And when he finally made a birdie, Woods removed his cap to acknowledge the crowd and held up a finger to indicate his first birdie.

“It's ridiculous it took me 14 holes to make a birdie,” Woods said. “At that time, I'd already played four par 5s and nothing happened. Just one of those days. Anything I did right ended up in a bad spot, and then everything I did wrong, it was really bad.”

It was tough on everyone.

No one in the 18-man field broke 70.

Hoffman had a few nervous moments but paid for it only once. He send his tee shot far right into the bushes on a sand dune right of the 10th fairway. He took a penalty drop onto a sandy path and wound up with a double bogey that brought a half-dozen players back into the mix.

But not for long.

Hoffman closed with three birdies over his last five holes.

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