PARAMUS, N.J. — For nearly an hour after his round on Friday night, Tiger Woods worked on his putting on the practice green. But he continues to have trouble finding his stroke at the Northern Trust tournament.
After two even-par rounds that left him flirting with the cut line, Woods shot 68 on Saturday, moving him to three under par for the tournament. For the first time all season, he played a bogey-free round.
But with soft conditions and little wind at Ridgewood Country Club, players are taking advantage, and Woods was disappointed with himself that he had not been able to do the same.
“For the week, I’ve only made eight birdies, and that’s not going to get it done,” Woods said. “These guys are making a boatload of birdies. I just haven’t made any.”
He could take some solace in other aspects of his play during the week. His drives, after a disastrous performance in the final round of the P.G.A. Championship two weeks ago, have returned to form, finding 64.2 percent of the fairways. He switched the shaft on his driver to something he felt was more familiar, and he is no longer shying away from swinging it.
“This entire year has been trying to hit a moving target,” Woods said. “My swing has changed, my body has changed. It’s morphed through the year. I’m at a place now where I think that that shaft works again.”
His iron play has also been exceptionally strong. He led the field on Friday hitting 16 greens in regulation. On Saturday, his approach shots left him, on average, 11.5 feet from the hole.
But his inability to sink those putts has kept him from making a serious charge at contention. Woods said he was struggling to see the lines on many of his putts.
“I’ve called Joey a few times this week to say, ‘I see three different breaks here,’ ” Woods said, referring to his caddie, Joe LaCava.
“I’m hitting in these spots where I’ve had double breakers, or if not triple-breaking putts, and I’m just not seeing or feeling correctly,” he said. “You know, just one of those weeks.”
On Saturday, Woods missed seven birdie putts from within 14 feet. It has been a recurring theme this season. Entering the week, Woods was ranked 80th on tour in putting average from 10 to 15 feet, making only 31.2 percent of his 109 attempts from that range.
“I putted great at Bellerive,” Woods said, referring to the site of the P.G.A. Championship. “Just haven’t had the feel or the pace this week.”
Earlier in the season, Woods’s putting was so bad he made a change to his bag, replacing his blade Scotty Cameron for a mallet putter made by TaylorMade, which he has kept using since. But Woods did not blame the club for his woes.
“Have I hit some bad putts? Of course,” Woods said. “But I’m just not seeing the breaks for some reason. Just one of those weeks where even the good ones are hitting the lips. They’re not lipping in. They’re lipping out.”
On the 14th, Woods finally connected on a 16-foot putt downhill that found its way into the cup. He gave the cheering fans there a hand wave and a small smile.
They had been waiting awhile to see Woods make a clutch roll. So had he.