Tiger Woods was one shot shy of the lead with three holes to go Friday when things at Bay Hill got messy for the defending champion.
Instead of sharing or even grabbing the advantage heading into the weekend, Woods finished the day with three consecutive bogeys for a closing 2-under 70 that included two water balls, a couple of missed two-to-three-footers, and one three-putt. He’ll begin the weekend tied for seventh place at 5-under.
Still, the world No. 2, who would leapfrog Rory McIlroy for the top spot in the world golf rankings with a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, liked his chances of catching the co-leaders.
“Now I’m four back,” Woods told reporters after a frustrating end to a soggy day in Orlando. “The good news is we’ve got 36 holes to go. We’ve got a long way to go, and certainly four shots can be made up.”
Despite a scruffy close, Woods believed his game was better on Friday than it was the day before, when he carded a 69 -- though he blamed bad swings on 17 and 18 for putting him out of range with his putter.
What happened on the 511-yard, par-5 16th was just “unfortunate,” he said.
At 5-under for the day and one stroke back, Woods drove into the right fairway bunker, where he faced a 210-yard approach shot from a decent lie. Going for the green, he hit the ball fat and watched as it bounced into a water hazard in front of the putting surface. He made his first bogey of the day when he failed to convert from some 25 feet.
Woods finished up with two more bogeys when he pulled a 6-iron left of the green into heavy rough on the par-3 17th and blocked his drive into the thick stuff on the par-4 18th.
''I've made my share of mistakes on the last few holes the last couple of days, and I need to clean that up,'' said Woods, who, with a win, would join Sam Snead in an elite club as the only two players to win the same tour event eight times.
He had that in mind when he chose to emphasize the pros rather than dwell on the cons of a round that got away.
“I played way better than I scored today. I missed a couple of short ones and I had a rough finish,” Woods said. “The score doesn’t indicate how well I played today, so that’s a good positive.”