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2020 Masters: Tiger Woods will come up short in title defense

Tiger Woods in 3rd round of 2020 Masters
Tiger Woods tees off at the par-5 8th hole in the 3rd round Saturday at the 84th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Woods would make bogey on the hole.

After an even-par 3rd round, the 2019 winner will enter Sunday's final round far off the pace of leader Dustin Johnson

Tiger Woods will not successfully defend his Masters title.

Woods, who won his fifth green jacket in 2019, shot even-par 72 on Saturday for a 5-under 211 total through 54 holes at Augusta National Golf Club. He trailed leader Dustin Johnson by 11 strokes entering Sunday's final round. Perhaps even more of a challenge: 18 other players stood between Woods and the lead (scores).

Woods had an early start to his day, needing to finish eight holes on the back nine of his second round. The third round started late Saturday morning after second-round play finished in mid-morning. The Masters had been playing catchup since a 2-hour, 45-minute suspension in play early Thursday because of inclement weather.

Woods signed for a second-round 71 and stood 5 under through 36 holes, only four strokes off the lead. He called the course “gettable,” noting conditions that included soft greens and very little wind.

However, that would be as close to the lead as he would get. Woods offset bogeys at Nos. 8 and 11 with birdies at Nos. 12 and 15 to match par in the third round. He hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens.

The 60-man field that made the cut – the low 50 and ties – is back on schedule after the third round was completed late Saturday afternoon. In the past 30 years, no one outside of the top five after 54 holes has gone on to win the Masters.

Woods had achieved a career renaissance in April 2019 when he won his fifth Masters title and his first green jacket in 14 years. He came to Augusta this year amid a different vibe, though. The coronavirus pandemic postponed the annual rite of spring until fall, and spectators were banned because of COVID-19 health concerns.

Woods, 44, who has won 15 major championships, was attempting to chip away at Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record of 18 of golf’s biggest prizes. Woods also was seeking to break his tie with Sam Snead for the all-time victory mark on the PGA Tour, at 82.

All of those concerns will have to wait until early 2021. The Hero World Challenge, an 18-man PGA Tour exhibition that benefits Woods’ foundation, recently was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns, meaning Woods likely won’t compete until the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing in January.

Late Saturday, Woods was feeling the effects of a long day at Augusta National.

“We’ve been at it for quite some time,” he said. “If you have long days like this, I’m going to get 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.”

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