How good were things going for him? He yanked a drive into the trees at 13, but it ricocheted into the middle of the fairway. From there he hit an iron to 15 feet and drilled the putt.
At the 14th, Woods hit his drive on the other side of the cart path beneath a canopy of huge trees to the right. He was forced to hit a low, hard, slicing shot to the green that ran to the back fringe. From there, he chipped 10 feet past but rolled in the par putt.
The gallery seemed to swell with each hole, the crowds growing in hopes of seeing history.
He stepped off his shot into the 216-yard, par-3 15th because he was bothered by a bug, then hit an iron 10 feet short of the pin. After playing partner Hideki Matsuyama of Japan putted out, Woods missed his birdie putt on the right side.
The 667-yard 16th, dubbed "The Monster" by Arnold Palmer, resulted in another par. Woods hit a long drive that dribbled into the first cut of rough on the left side of the fairway, then laid up to about 100 yards. His wedge carried too far, however, spinning back to 30 feet. With a light sprinkle turning into a steady drizzle, he two-putted, leaving the birdie attempt short and right of the hole by 2 feet.
A huge throng, several deep around the lengthy hole, responded with polite applause as he tapped in.
He still had a chance for a 59. He hit a long drive along the left side at 17, but misread a 7-footer for birdie that missed on the low side of the break.
"I had opportunities to make putts there at 15 and 17," he said.
With the rain now falling hard, and Woods needing to hole his second shot on the par-4 18th for a 59, he drove far to the right on the slight dogleg to the left. He muscled a shot out of a difficult lie to a bare spot near a huge scoreboard right and short of the green. From there, he chipped to the back fringe — and made the 25-footer coming back for par.
He pumped his fist as the crowd roared.
Matsuyama, a 21-year-old who was sixth at the British Open, got a close-up view.
"It was great looking at great play at the top of the world," he said.
The last player to shoot 59 in a PGA Tour event was Stuart Appleby in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic in 2010. Al Geiberger was the first in 1977, and Chip Beck, David Duval and Paul Goydos also accomplished the feat.
Bill Haas shot a 68 and was tied for fourth at 5 under with Henrik Stenson, who had a 70. Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Jason Duffner and Bubba Watson were 4 under.
There have been 27 rounds of 60 in tour events, including Phil Mickelson this year in the Phoenix Open.
In a remarkable career spent in the spotlight, a 59 would have been just another check mark on Woods' to-do list. Instead, he didn't think it was even anything special.
"(One of my) top 10 rounds?" he said, repeating the question. "I don't know about that."