Tiger moves up leaderboard but trails

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The putts finally started to drop for Tiger Woods on Saturday, and a lively, boisterous crowd did its best to offer support, but it wasn't enough to thrust him into contention at the Honda Classic.

After five consecutive 1-putt greens -- including three birdies on the front side -- Woods was unable to make anything happen as the wind picked up and the course became more difficult.

The result was a 1-under-par 69 at PGA National that left him tied for 18th, 9 shots back of 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy.Rory McIlroy.

"I was close to putting a low one up there today," said Woods, who completed 54 holes at 208, 2 under par. "I felt like it could be had, I could make a run and post, what, 5 under par for the day or something like that and get myself within reach, hope the leaders came back to me."

It didn't quite work out that way for Woods, who is making his Honda Classic debut as a professional.

After a bogey at the second hole, Woods found some form, making three birdies in a five-hole stretch and saving pars on the other two holes. He made the turn in 33 and was 3 under for the tournament.

But there would be no more birdies. Woods bogeyed the 13th hole and had just one birdie putt inside of 10 feet on the back nine, at the par-5 18th, that he missed. Perhaps it seemed to be close to being good for Woods, but after making five putts outside of 7 feet on the front nine, it was going to be difficult for him to go low without hitting it closer on the back.

He has also birdied just one of six par-5s to this point.

"By the time we got to the back nine, it was whipping pretty good," said Woods, who hit 11 greens and had 28 putts. "The guys are going to have a little bit of a challenge. That back nine is not playing easy."

That is why Woods did not get ahead of himself Saturday, despite not making up any ground.

"On a golf course like this, I feel like I have to be patient," he said. "I can't get out there and fire at every flag. This golf course doesn't lend itself to that.

"Plus, you never know with tomorrow. The finishing holes here, with the wind (that) is supposed to switch directions tomorrow, anything can happen around this place, and you just need to be around the lead and hopefully tomorrow, if I can get off to a good start, get myself somewhere up there, you just never know."

Woods is playing for the fourth time in 2012, following a tie for third at the Abu Dhabi Championship, a tie for 15th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a second-round defeat at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He is scheduled to play next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Miami and then is expected to make the Arnold Palmer Invitational his last start prior to the Masters.

Bob Harig in a senior golf writer for ESPN.com.