By Mark Lamport-Stokes
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Tiger Woods endured another bad day of ball-striking at the Tour Championship in Saturday's third round but was thankful for a relatively sharp putting display as he carded his first sub-par score of the week.
A distant 14 strokes off the pace overnight in the elite field of 30 in the PGA Tour's season finale, Woods returned a one-under 69 to end a wet, overcast day at East Lake Golf Club well down the leaderboard at three-over 213.
"I didn't hit it very good today," the world number one said after missing nine of 14 fairways and reaching only 11 of 18 greens in regulation. "I hit everything to the right or flipped it left, but I putted better.
"As I said yesterday, that was the difference. I hit the best the first day and made nothing and putted better the last two days."
Woods came into this week as the FedExCup points leader, seeking his sixth PGA Tour win of the season, but opening scores of 73 and 71 effectively ended his title bid.
However, he was in a surprisingly upbeat mood while talking to reporters and outlining his objective for Sunday's final round.
"The goal is to go out and shoot a low round tomorrow and see where the chips fall," Woods said after totaling only 28 putts on Saturday. "My responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one and see what happens."
FedExCup champion in 2007 and 2009, Woods failed to make any impression on the leaderboard on his outward nine after teeing in the first group of the morning.
He bogeyed the par-four third, after finding the right rough off the tee and a greenside bunker with his approach, to reach the turn in one-over 36, five over for the tournament.
Woods did well to save par at the 10th, sinking a 10-footer there after missing his seventh fairway of the day, and finally made his first birdie of the round in unexpected fashion at the par-four 14th.
After hitting his second shot into short rough just above a greenside bunker, he chipped in for a three before acknowledging the roars from the crowd with a sheepish smile.
"You know what, Duff was giving me a pretty good earful going down 13 and chipped it in there," he said of his playing partner Jason Dufner. "So I was able to fire right back at him (on 14) so that I wasn't shut out."
Woods also birdied the par-five 15th, getting up and down from a greenside bunker, before parring the last three holes.
With just one round left, Woods has set his sights on shooting a low score on Sunday, if only to improve his momentum going into the October 3-6 Presidents Cup competition in Dublin, Ohio.
"It's nice to get the week off (before the Presidents Cup), but I want to go in there playing well and shooting some good scores," he said.
"I didn't hit the ball well today. It wasn't that far off, but it just kept spinning over to the right. At least I was able to putt well today. It was nice. I made some nice putts."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden)