For 72 holes, Woods was -7.695 meaning he gave up more than 7 shots on the greens; had that number been 0, in theory he would have finished seven strokes better and been leading or certainly in a position to chase down eventual playoff victor Bryson DeChambeau.
"I know I shot 68 today, but again, that's probably the highest score I could have possibly shot", said Woods, who was five shots behind.
He was at 14-under 202, and even DeChambeau couldn't help but look back at two short birdies that got away.
"I can't believe I did it", DeChambeau said. "Hopefully I can play well like this on the weekend and I've got a great chance of winning this tournament". "I'm in a position where if I shoot another good round like I have the last two days, I've got a chance". For the week, Woods had five three-putt greens and missed seven putts inside 5 feet. Six players have won in their first event at No. 1, most recently Dustin Johnson in Mexico a year ago.
The leading trio finished tied on 15-under par with Patrick Cantlay a shot further back after a disappointing back nine after he led by two at the turn, while Justin Rose came up just short in his bid to dethrone Justin Thomas as world No 1.
Woods was 95 yards out on his third shot and the ball landed just long of the flag before spinning back into the cup. And then he stalled, just like he did on Friday.
Another birdie on the 15th briefly gave him a share of the lead but for the second consecutive day the 42-year-old was left to rue his putting.
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DeChambeau had struggled to make much happen over the front nine as he missed a number of fairways, although he scrambled hard to keep a bogey off his card while picking up a welcome birdie at the fifth.
Sunday was more of the same as he missed a 3-footer on No. 10 and an 8-footer on No. 16, making bogey on both. Those spreads won't get any closer after he accurately estimated that a 63 was in reach during Saturday's 68 before turning in a final-round 72 that at times felt more like a 75.
"The weather is going to be a little iffy", Woods said.
Rory McIlroy, remarkably, has reason to feel the same way. Just like Woods and DeChambeau, he had a few regrets on the greens.
This was instead a slow bleed from close range, one 5-foot miss at a time.
European - Lee Slattery shot a 9-under 62 to take a one-stroke lead entering the final round of the Italian Open in Brescia.
Niemann, 19, highlighted his round with a 50-foot eagle putt at the par-five seventh.