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Tiger Woods cards 72 day after securing return to top 100 in world

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Woods struggled with irons in third round (1:17)

During his third round at the Masters, Tiger Woods says he wishes he hit his irons better and adjusting on the fly proved difficult for him. (1:17)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods chuckled at the idea that it might be considered a good sign that he will move into the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in more than three years.

By making the cut at the Masters, Woods is projected to move into the low 90s, pending his Sunday finish at Augusta National, where he is tied for 40th after a third-round, even-par 72.

"I'm just kind of gradually working on it, gradually building," Woods said. "I was pretty far out there, I think. I'm going to guess like over 1,400 or something, whatever it was. But to gradually kind of build my way back into it, I've had some success in this comeback.

"And I'm getting there. I wish this week would have been a little bit better. Hopefully tomorrow I can shoot something, get me to even par or even in the red. I think that will be a good goal tomorrow, and hopefully I can get it done."

Woods was ranked 1,199th before returning from spinal fusion surgery in December at the Hero World Challenge. He missed 10 months of golf and was unable to swing a club for six months while he recovered.

After three top-12 finishes this year, Woods had climbed to 103rd in the rankings heading into the Masters. He was 102nd after a tie for 17th at Augusta National in 2015. The last time he was in the top 100 was on March 22, 2015, when he was 96th.

For Woods, 42, the world ranking is more about vanity, although it does affect him in a few instances. It helps determine the fields for the World Golf Championship events, and getting into the top 50 would make him eligible for August's WGC-Bridgestone, a tournament he has won eight times.

Woods is exempt for all the major championships, but his 10-year exemption to the U.S. Open expires after this year. Getting among the top 60 by two cutoff points leading into the 2019 U.S. Open (or finishing in the top 30 in FedEx points this year) would assure a spot at Pebble Beach -- although Woods would be a lock for a special exemption.

But to keep climbing, he will need to work on some parts of his game that have held him back at the Masters.

"I didn't play the par-5s well, and I didn't hit a lot of good iron shots; it was the same as yesterday," said Woods, who bogeyed the first two holes but played the remaining 16 in 2 under. "I'm hitting so many good putts. They're just not going in. But I'm not hitting it close enough. I'm not getting up there and not taking advantage of the par-5s, and consequently, a good round is even par."

Woods hit 12 of 18 greens Saturday but made just one birdie on a par-5 (No. 8) and made bogeys on two of them (Nos. 2 and 15). He also made birdies at No. 6 and No. 16.

Afterward, he said distance control with his irons was not an issue until the tournament started.

"That's why it's disappointing and a little bit frustrating," Woods said. "But I haven't been sharp with them, given the fact that I was playing well coming in, my practice sessions have been good, and just have not executed the way that I have been."