By Michael Bennett

Tiger Woods finished yesterday’s Masters third round at even par 72, tied for 40th place, 18 shots behind the leaders.

So:

“I just couldn’t do it three days in a row. I just couldn’t do it,” Woods said after the round. “I gave it a little bit more gas on it and made sure that I was long if I did miss. And I hit a good one in there. Missed the putt, but, hey, you know, that’s a lot easier to play the hole from the green than it is

Woods expected more of himself – as did the record number of viewers tuning in, with his back healed after spinal fusion surgery, his game healthy, his confidence restored.

But after finishing second and fifth in his two previous starts before heading down Magnolia Lane – his best two finishes since 2015 – his play has been unexceptional.

There has been no Tiger magic, few fist pumps, only muted roars. He hasn’t devoured the par 5s like he did in the past, as he’s a collective 1 under on the second, eighth, 13th and 15th holes this week. He’s had trouble with his driving at times, his short irons, his decision making.

He just couldn’t get started on Thursday and then couldn’t flip the switch. Now, instead of trying to win his fifth green jacket, he’s hoping to finish in red numbers by Sunday’s end. He’ll need his best round to do that, as he stands at 4-over par after rounds of 73-75 and Saturday’s 72.

“I just haven’t gotten it done,” Woods said. “I feel like I’m driving it better than I have all year, but I am not capitalizing on it. And when I did miss, I missed in the wrong spots. My swing’s just off with my irons just at the wrong time.”

His swing was spot-on when he got to Augusta National Golf Club but then he couldn’t find it among the Georgia pines.

“That’s why it’s disappointing and a little bit frustrating,” Woods said. “I was playing well coming in, my practice sessions have been good, and I just have not executed the way that I have been. I know what the problem is, but I’m struggling trying to fix it on the fly and trusting it.

“I’m putting so well. I’m hitting so many good putts, they’re just not going in. But I’m not hitting it close enough.”

Woods will leave these majestic grounds with at least one victory. The man who holds the record for most weeks as world No. 1 – that would be 683 – will move into the top 100 after being ranked 1,199th just four months ago.

“I’m just kind of gradually working on it, gradually building,” Woods said. “I’ve had some success in this comeback and I’m getting there.