Tiger finds putter, feels good in final round

  • Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
  • Covered golf for more than 20 years
  • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University

SAN FRANCISCO — After a final-round 67 that finally saw him make a few putts at the PGA Championship, Tiger Woods tried to look at the positives of a healthy week in chilly San Francisco and the days ahead as he prepares for the FedEx Cup playoffs and the U.S. Open.

“I think what I got out of this week is that I felt competitive,” said Woods, who finished at 279, 1 under par but well before the leaders.

“If I would have made a few more putts on Friday early on, and the same thing with Saturday, I felt like I would have been right there with a chance come today,” he said. “It didn’t happen, but I fought hard, and today was more indicative of how I could have played on Friday and Saturday if I would have made a few putts early.”

Putting was the biggest issue all week, and Woods managed to coax a few in on Sunday, needing just 25 for the round, his best of the week. That came after poor efforts on Friday and Saturday that essentially knocked him out of the tournament.

Woods’ switch this week to a different Scotty Cameron putter was of keen interest, but he did not commit to using it at his next tournament. “What makes the starting lineup, who knows?” he said.

He also ranked inside the top 10 in strokes gained off the tee, hitting nine fairways, although he hit just 10 greens in regulation — his worst of the tournament and an area of his game that was beneath his usual standard.

Perhaps the most important thing is Woods looked good physically, showing no signs of distress that were apparent three weeks ago at the Memorial, despite cool, almost frigid temperatures at times.

“Overall, the body reacted pretty good,” he said. “The best thing to do is stay out of the rough and not have any of those jarring shots. If I could have done that like I did on Friday the entire week and made a few putts, then it might have been a different story.”

Woods now faces a potentially busy stretch with the FedEx Cup playoffs looming. It appears he will play in two weeks at TPC Boston for the Northern Trust, the first of three playoff events that follows with the BMW Championship outside of Chicago and then the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Having played just two events and eight rounds since the PGA Tour’s resumption of play in June, Woods has fallen from 28th in the FedEx Cup standings to 48th — where he was projected to be when his round finished. The top 125 qualify for the first event, with 70 making it to the BMW and only 30 to the Tour Championship.

Woods has some work to do in order to make it back to East Lake, where he had his rousing 80th PGA Tour victory two years ago. If he qualifies, that potentially means playing three straight weeks. He has not even played two consecutive weeks since the Hero Challenge/Presidents Cup in December — and even there, the Presidents Cup was a three-day event and he skipped playing on Saturday.

“We knew once I started playing again when I committed to Memorial that this was going to be a heavy workload, and my training sessions, we’ve been pushing it pretty hard, making sure that I kept my strength and endurance up,” he said. “This week off will be no different. We’ll be pushing it hard to make sure that I can stay strong and have the endurance to keep on going.”

Woods noted that however his schedule shakes out, he’ll have time to get ready for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, which is Sept. 17-20. But there is only one week between the Tour Championship and the second major championship of 2020.

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