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Masters 2012: Tiger Woods Birdies 2 Early Holes At Augusta National In Round 3

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Masters 2012: Tiger Woods pumps his fist after hitting a tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round at Augusta, Saturday, April 7, 2012.
Masters 2012: Tiger Woods pumps his fist after hitting a tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round at Augusta, Saturday, April 7, 2012.

By Eddie Pells, The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Before Tiger Woods tried to make a weekend move at the Masters, he needed to get his long game, his putter and, yes, even his temper back in check.

Early in his third round Saturday, he appeared to be doing all that.

Woods made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 3 and 4, cutting an eight-shot deficit to six, with leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner still hours away from their tee times.

It was a good early rebound for Woods after a second round filled with bad shot-making and missed putts that had him tossing and kicking his clubs by the end.

Last year, he trailed by as many as seven but briefly got into the lead on Sunday before finishing fourth.

By making up two shots early Saturday, he moved to 1 over for the tournament and up to a tie for 32nd place through five holes after starting the day in 40th.

Couples and Dufner had a one-shot lead over a group of six, including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy.

Woods was among the 63 players who made the cut, the most since 1992 – the year Couples, now 52, won his only green jacket.

Woods has won four since then and appeared to have his game back in shape after two years of personal and professional turmoil. He won in Orlando last month for this first PGA Tour victory in 30 months and was the favorite coming into the year's first major.

But his game unraveled over the first two days – starting with sprayed drives, continuing with blocked approach shots and finishing with four missed putts inside of five feet during a round of 3-over 75 on Friday.

He was tossing clubs, shouting out expletives and, in the worst moment, even kicked his club after sending his tee shot on the par-3 16th hole into a bunker right of the green.

He blocked his first approach shot of the third round Saturday and stared blankly down at the divot, then up the hill at the ball, which ended up pin high but to the right of the first green. He got up and down, sinking an 8-foot putt to save par, then made another par on No. 2 – a par-5 that has been the easiest on the course so far this week.

But he came back with two birdies and now the question is, can he keep the momentum? On Friday, Woods birdied two of the first three holes, but didn't have another one all day and let the frustration show.

Couples thrilled the crowd on Friday – the fan favorite bringing his trademark West Coast-casual attitude along with a smooth swing that hasn't broken down much over the years. He made seven birdies in a round of 5-under 67.

"Can I win?" Couples said, repeating the question now on the minds of so many. "Yeah, I believe I can. Yes."

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