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Woods readies for important two-week stretch

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How did Tiger Woods recover from his worst 72-hole finish in a major? By going on vacation with his kids and girlfriend Lindsey Vonn.

“We toured a little bit and even played a little putt-putt, which I won every single time,” he said Monday on a video conference promoting the upcoming Deutsche Bank Championship, the FedEx Cup playoff event that benefits his foundation.

Woods also opted for some R&R after he missed the cut at the Quicken Loans National. Cynics will read those remarks and wonder why Woods wasn’t grinding on the range to improve, or assume that his desire to be great has vanished.   

Not so, he says. 

When asked Monday what keeps the competitive juices flowing after all of these years in the spotlight, he replied, “Winning more. I thoroughly enjoy that. That’s why I played from a very young age. … To me the satisfaction of that, being able to prepare and be able to go out there and get it done, it does feel good. I haven’t lost that. I certainly don’t foresee that ever happening.

“I’ve got a little 5-year-old right now (Charlie) that is really pushing me pretty hard. He wants to beat me in everything. That said, I was able to kick his butt in putt-putt. I’ve shown him how to get it done.”

This is an important stretch for Woods, beginning with this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he is the defending champion and an eight-time winner.

The former world No. 1 likely has to average at least a top-3 finish at Firestone and next week at Valhalla just to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs. He was in a similar situation in 2011, after missing nearly three months with various injuries, and he wound up outside the top-125 bubble. 

“Hopefully I can do a little better than I did last time,” he said.

Making matters even more pressing is the Ryder Cup. At No. 70 in points, Woods likely will not qualify for the team automatically, but a few encouraging performances might be enough to convince captain Tom Watson to burn one of his three wild-card picks on him, similar to what Corey Pavin did in 2010.  

“In the end it’s what can you do for your team?” Woods said. “Are you able to contribute?”

That much is still unclear, however, after Woods shot rounds of 69-77-73-75 to finish 69th at the Open Championship – 23 shots behind winner Rory McIlroy

A five-time winner and PGA Tour Player of the Year last season, Woods was plagued by a back injury earlier this season, went under the knife March 31, missed two majors and is now all the way down to 10th in the world.

With the consistency of Adam Scott at the top, and the reemergence of three-time major winner Rory McIlroy, many men with a microphone have suggested that there is a new world order, that the so-called Tiger Era is over.

Not surprisingly, Woods isn’t buying that talk.

“Unfortunately I’ve had my share of breakdowns,” he said of his injuries. “I’ve had to rehab and I’ve had to come back. And through all the years I’ve been able to do that.”