(Reuters) - Tiger Woods was "frustrated" after failing to convert four consecutive early birdies into a great third round at the Quicken Loans National on Saturday.
The former world number one added only one birdie coming home, and a bogey at the last gave him a two-under-par 68, which left him six strokes behind leaders Francesco Molinari and Abraham Ancer at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Maryland.
Although not completely out of contention in equal 10th place on seven-under 203, it was hardly the position Woods expected when he made the turn with a spring in his step after sinking a 25-foot birdie at the ninth hole.
Woods wants officials to refrain from watering the course heavily overnight, believing he has a better chance of winning if conditions are dry, firm and difficult.
"I need to see it testy to post a good round and hope that will be enough," he told CBS television.
"I guess one word (today) would be frustrating, to make four bogeys, I couldn't afford to do that.
"I figured I had to get to at least 10 (under) by the end of the day."
Woods, a 14-times major winner, has been stuck on 79 PGA Tour victories -- three shy of Sam Snead's record -- since 2013. He was stricken with a chronic back issue from 2014 until a successful spinal fusion last year allowed him to resume a full schedule in 2018.
A huge crowd that braved steam bath-like conditions screamed excitedly as Woods hit a three-wood off the first tee, not realising, or perhaps not caring, that his ball was heading into thick rough.
An opening bogey, and a disappointing par five at the second offered little hint of the fireworks to come, but a 15-foot par save at the third lifted his confidence.
Woods promptly reeled off four consecutive birdies as he found his range with his irons and hit a series of precision approach shots.
He continued to home in on the pins with his approach shots as he set off on the back nine, but missed birdie putts from inside 10 feet at the 10th and 11th holes took the wind out of his sails.
He also missed an eight-foot par putt at the last, where a poor drive into punishing rough left him in trouble.
Despite the setback at the 18th, Woods sounded generally happy with his form on the greens in his first tournament using a new "mallet" putter, so called because of its resemblance to the tool.
"This entire week I've started the ball on line again and I'm starting to see it," he said.
"Whether they go in or not, that's great."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Neville Dalton)