Posted on: August 7, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: August 7, 2011 4:00 pm

Now that it's over, Woods 'absolutely encouraged'

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."

Yeah, exactly.

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.

Category: Golf
Posted on: August 6, 2011 4:43 pm

Bubba on Tiger: 'He's really close'

AKRON, Ohio -- It wasn't pretty.

It wasn't particularly effective, either.

But it marked another step of perceived progress for Tiger Woods on Saturday at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods shot his highest score of the week, a 2-over 72, and fell into a tie for 38th in his first full tournament since April, leaving him 13 strokes behind leader Adam Scott at Firestone Country Club.

Despite playing on a venue where he has seven career victories, Woods struggled mightily and missed every fairway on the front nine before finally settling into something of a rhythm on the inward half.

"Today was a struggle," he said. "But I pieced it back together, which was nice. I'm still fighting my old patterns."

That would include a run of less-than-spectacular results, compared to what people are accustomed to. Woods hasn’t won in 22 months on the PGA Tour and has been fighting injury and off-the-course travails for most of that time. He's found 17 of 42 fairways this week to rank T74 in a 76-man field, and isn’t much better at T53 in putts.

Woods explained that he isn’t curving the ball as much with his new swing and hasn't dialed in his launch patterns quite yet, so to speak.

"I've hit it flush all week," he said. "I'm trying to get used to my new setup and lines."

Because he was positioned dead in the middle of the pack after 36 holes and the PGA Tour sent players off both tees in threesomes to beat some forecast weather, Woods was in the first group off the first tee at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. He played alongside Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter, who both are ranked higher than he is in the world ranking.

Data is a bit sketchy, but it's believed to be the first time since his rookie year that Woods played with two higher-ranked players. Woods has skidded 26 positions this year to No. 28 in the world.

Woods has also had some misadventures on the greens, where he has missed two putts from around 30 inches this week and had another take a 360-degree tour of the cup before toppling in.

Yet Watson, who shot 2-under 68 and moved up to T20, still came away impressed by what he saw in his former practice-round partner.

"He didn’t make any putts, that's really what it was," said Watson, a two-time winner this year. "Those momentum putts.

"He's really close. I wouldn’t be surprised if he played really well tomorrow and then won next week."

Posted on: August 8, 2010 10:44 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2010 11:03 pm

Tiger goes off early at WGC, everybody yawns

AKRON, Ohio -- What if they held a golf tournament with Tiger Woods, and nobody came?

Or really cared?

This was the scene at the first tee at Firestone on Sunday morning when Woods teed off with Ryder Cupper Anthony Kim at 7:45 a.m.

Well, at least the dozen people in the stands appeared to be applauding when Tiger was introduced. If they knew Tiger was going to match the highest 18-hole score of his career on U.S. soil relative to par, and finish 30 shots behind the winner, they might have stayed in bed.

Starting the day 20 strokes off the leaders and with the ... Amy Sancetta / AP
Category: Golf
Posted on: August 5, 2010 6:37 pm

Favorite haunt provides fright for Tiger, too

AKRON, Ohio – The stage doesn’t make the artist.

Despite playing on a venue where he has won a PGA Tour-record seven times, Tiger Woods recorded the highest round of his professional career at Firestone Country Club on Thursday in the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational.

Taking another backward step in his comeback from a raft of personal and professional issues, the defending champion shot a 4-over 74 and managed only two birdies in an event where he has never finished worse than a tie for fourth.

“Just because I like the golf course doesn't mean I'm going to play well on it,” a deflated Woods said afterward. “You know, unfortunately that's not the case. You still have to execute, and I didn't do that today. I did not execute the shots that I wanted to execute today, didn't shape the ball the way I wanted to shape it, and certainly did not putt well.”

Those lyrics have become all too familiar. He hit 5 of 14 fairways and spent most of the day carving recovery shots from the rough and around the course’s towering oak trees. His worse previous score at Firestone was a 72 and he had managed nine straight rounds of par or better on the famous parkland track entering the week.

It mirrored his season in many regards. Amazingly, the closest Woods has been to the overnight lead in any of his starts this year came in his first outing, at the Masters, when he was two shots back after the first and second rounds. At Firestone, he stands 10 shots behind Bubba Watson, who opened with a 64.

Worse, Woods was heckled at least once during the round. As he walked to the clubhouse from the 18th green, a male fan along the ropes waited until Woods was within arm’s reach and said, “You’re washed up, Tiger, give it up.”

Woods didn’t acknowledge the fan, though he did offer a self-deprecating curtsey for the gallery when he made his second birdie of the day, on the 17th. When the ball went in the cup, he turned and actually bowed twice at the waist to the fans, tipping his cap.

It was awful and uphill from the start. He bogeyed the first two holes and never sniffed getting into the leaderboard mix at a venue where he has been practically invincible, winning his last four starts at Firestone. He missed the 2008 event because of knee surgery.

“I was 2-over through two, on two easy holes, and from then on, I didn't hit any good putts, either,” Woods said, repeating a common lament about his putting this year. “I was struggling on the greens and didn't hit any good iron shots. Probably hit about two good iron shots all day today. That's definitely not enough.”

Woods had never before bogeyed the pushover second hole in 44 previous rounds at Firestone.

Woods had 99 putts over his first three rounds at his last start, the British Open, and followed up with 32 on Thursday. Few others were having the same issues, making it even more frustrating for Woods, whose position as world No. 1 is again in jeopardy. The course was there for the taking.

“Absolutely, it's soft, the fairways are running, but they're not out-of-control fast,” he said. “They're still giving it up a little bit. But still, the greens are really soft and you can go after just about every flag.  The 5-irons and 4-irons are still holding, so it was a day you could be aggressive if you played better than I did.”

Woods didn't stick around for any post-round tinkering. Moments after hs conducted a brief post-round interview, Woods and his caddie loaded their gear in a Lexus SUV and were gone.

Category: Golf
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