AKRON, Ohio -- As ever, Tiger Woods remains a study in contradictions, even after a half-season-long layoff.
He's still an enigma, through and through.
Woods shot an even-par 70 in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational and was T38 as the leaders were finishing on Sunday. Though he had insistently said his lone objective this week was to win, nevermind the rust, the former world No. 1 Woods gave the week a generally positive review.
See if you can identify the paradox here.
"Absolutely encouraged," he said. "I hadn't played. I mean, this is my first tournament since, what, April, so it's been a while."
Which was the thrust of the point that was made, myriad times, throughout the week after Woods kept deflecting assertions that his goal of winning was unreasonable given the layoff.
With his comeback effort in the books, Woods now faces the daunting task of playing next week in the season's final major, the PGA Championship, with not nearly enough live-fire preparation. If he sprays it around in Atlanta as much as he did at Firestone Country Club, he might be packing his bags after two days.
Woods wishes that he had more time, and more tournaments beforehand, but he's going to have to wing it as best he can. He missed the last two majors with injury issues.
"It would be nice [to have another start], but hey, I've got three days, so I'm going to worry about these three days and apply it accordingly and be ready come Thursday," he said.
Woods said he needs more live competition before he gets fully comfortable with his swing, which he first began tearing down exactly 52 weeks ago at the PGA Championship. That said, he's very much on the bubble for the FedEx Cup playoff series and isn't remotely assured a spot in the top 125, where he must finish in order to play the four-event stretch that begins Aug. 25.
Then again, Woods said Sunday that he will not play in the Wyndham Championship, held the week after the PGA, which represents the last chance to earn FedEx points before the playoff series starts.
"Family obligations," he said.
Woods offered no specifics, but even if he's implying that he has custodial issues that can't be changed, he's painted himself into a nearly impossible corner as far as his seasonal status. Unless he makes a huge jump up the points list next week, every other FedEx bubble boy will be entered at the Wyndahm seeking to leapfrog into the top 125.
Woods is a two-time FedEx champion and skipping the Wyndham likely isn't going to be well received if he has a poor showing next week in Atlanta, especially since he's playing in Australia later this fall for a fat appearance fee believed to be in the neighborhood of $2 million.
With the results of the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe event yet to be tallied or incorporated, Woods was listed at a projected 124th in FedEx points.
In discussing his week, Woods launched into a handful of examples that underscored exactly why the point was raised among fans as to whether his expectations entering the week were impossibly high.
"It's nice for me to get out there in this competitive atmosphere no matter how I was playing just to figure out how to score because I haven't been forced to score," he said.
He added: "At home playing money games with my buddies is just not quite the same. Being out here and being forced to have to post a score, hit shots, that's a different deal."
Woods ranked dead last in the field of 76 players, hitting 22 of 56 fairways, and wasn;t much better on the greens. Woods benched his putter after three mediocre rounds, switched to a Nike model Sunday and was T45 in putting for the week.
There was one universally positive development, and it brought a grin to his face. Woods had no issues at all with his leg, and is past the point where it needs to be iced or treated after the round.
"It feels great," he said. "It's a different kind of feeling."
He'd be the first to admit, after nearly two years without winning, so would contending.