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More progress for Woods

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – For a man who has measured success by major victories and historic performances, baby steps may seem a tad misplaced. But from the professional and personal depths Tiger Woods has emerged from the last 12 months his closing 67 and tie for fourth at the Masters is a reason to at least look forward to Congressional and June’s U.S. Open.

Although his putter went cold when he needed it the most on Augusta National’s back nine there was a symbolic victory to be savored by just getting into the conversation late into a Sunday afternoon.

Last year’s tie for fourth at the Masters was the last time Woods was a legitimate conversation piece coming down the stretch at a major, so his front-nine 31 that pulled him into a share of lead was likely enough to make the flight home to Orlando, Fla., a little shorter.

Late Sunday we asked Woods’ swing coach Sean Foley if this is the best he’s seen him play since the two began working together just before last year’s PGA Championship.

“On the course at a tournament, yes,” Foley said. “I am very proud of him. He has endured a great deal and I was excited today not as a coach but as a friend and fan.”

For the week Woods tied for 32nd in putting (1.67 average), 31st in driving accuracy (66 percent) and, perhaps most encouraging, fifth in greens in regulation (73.6 percent).

But it was one particular shot, a towing 6-iron at the 15th that set up a two-putt birdie, that Woods will likely revisit in the coming days.

“That was a nice little holdy 6-iron, a little softy,” Woods said. “I think I had like 207 (yards to the pin at the par 5). I took something off a 6-iron and just hit it up in the air.”

Next stop for Woods will be the Wells Fargo Championship followed by The Players Championship. Until then, he can dream of “softy” 6-irons.