A questioner wanted to know if Woods would be thinking about his recent stumbles.
What stumbles? Woods demanded flintily.
Thats just one tournament, Woods said. There was a long pause, followed by no elaboration from Woods, followed by the next question.
So much for stumbles.
Woods made five bogeys Sunday at Doral in the WGC-CA Championship and he didnt pile up many style points along the way en route to his 56th career PGA TOUR win, a two-shot victory over Brett Wetterich. But he did accomplish his mission.
A win is a win, Woods said afterward.
It included a lay-up off the tee on the par 4 18th hole followed by an 8-iron, a wedge and a difficult two-putt. He had arrived at the final hole with a three-shot lead.
If I make five there, Woods explained, he (Wetterich) cant win the tournament.
The whole idea (Sunday), Woods added, was to shoot under par and I figured if I shot under par it would be over. Didnt quite get it done, but ended up winning the tournament anyways. Such is the luxury of a four-shot lead after 54 holes. A Sunday 73 was good enough.
Sunday was always going to have to be uncharted territory for anybody with designs on upsetting Woods. Never before in his decade as a professional had Tiger lost a lead of more than two shots entering the final round of any event.
Going into the last 18 holes at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Woods, led Wetterich by four and everybody else by at least five. Woods had been a cumulative 75 under par in his 19 rounds as a professional at Doral.
And, after ballooning to a 43 on the final nine holes of Arnold Palmers Invitational at Bay Hill last Sunday, he was looking to take his final competitive inventory before he headed to Augusta where the Masters Tournament will begin a week from Thursday.
The obvious task at hand for Woods was winning his 13th WGC event and second TOUR competition of the year. It was also an opportunity to get a healthy dose of golf's best, and legal, drug: Winning.
In each of his first three rounds Woods had been 2 under after two holes. He birdied his first two holes on Thursday and Friday and he eagled No. 1 on Saturday. In fact, in his last 19 professional starts he had birdied or eagled the first hole 17 times, including the last 15 in a row.
Sunday he birdied it again. But despite plenty of flashes of brilliance all week, Woods never fully synched to the task at hand. I slept kind of funky one night and my necks been stiff for about three days now, he offered. Thats what happens when you turn 30.
It wasnt an excuse because, by definition, excuses are for losers.
In the end, the grinding Tiger had to do to protect his victory late Sunday may turn out to be a good thing. He would have preferred a cakewalk. But mental conditioning is important, too. And a little struggle, in the end, will probably prepare him better for next weeks Masters where winning almost never comes easy.
Doral, a course he says he loves, was mostly an enjoyable week for Woods who rallied from an indifferent opening 71 marred by bad putting with a sizzling Friday 66 and a splendid Saturday 68. After the latter, he spent much of the evening across town watching one of his new best friends. That would be Roger Federer, the best tennis player in the world, who was dispatching American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-3 in the Sony Ericsson Open.
Federer did not lose serve in the match. Indeed, Querrey never even had a break point on Federer. Similarly, one of Woods golf challenges Sunday was to work on getting his first serve in. That is to say, put it in play off the tee.
Woods struggled early Sunday in that department. But when he had to, he split the narrow 18th fairway with his 3-iron.
The PGA TOUR stops at the Shell Houston Open this week. We wont see Woods again until the Masters.
Then, we will see a lot of him. And we will be surprised to see any stumbles.
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