POTOMAC, Md. – Tiger Woods capped off a final-round 66 with a determined fist pump en route to a tie for fourth. There were moments of greatness this week, but still too many mistakes holding him back. Scattered thoughts from a scatterbrained, sun-fried Tracker:
• Let’s tackle the new putter. He really seems quite pleased with it:
“I rolled the ball well this week. I did some good work last week and the putter felt good. It felt good to start my ball on the lines again. I'm starting to see it, starting to feel it, and I had the pace pretty much good all week. The putts I missed, I hit a lot of good ones, which I don't mind because I hadn't been doing that for a while, the better part of two months. Even my good ones didn't look very good, so this was nice.”
That’s true. It’s just not quite the whole story. Let’s start with the good. After a pretty rough start on Thursday, Tiger finished this week seventh in strokes gained: putting. That’s a dramatic improvement over what he was doing in his previous starts and a reason for optimism. Once the lid came off early Friday, he was pouring in lengthy birdie putts.
• But he was far from trustworthy over the short ones. In fact, he was dead last in the field on putts made from inside of 10 feet at 60 of 73 (82.2 percent). So, yes, the whole putting picture was better but his effort from inside 10 feet was the absolute worst among the guys who played the weekend. Not all sunshine and daisies, you know?
• While I’m ripping him, let me take a step back here. If you had told me 12 months ago I was going to be complaining that he was only seventh in the field in strokes gained: putting a year later, you would have found me running naked through the streets asking if KFC was still open. … What I mean to say is, it’s impossible to manage expectations with this guy. I’m glossing over his third top-10 this year. That’s nutty.
• And yet, he finished 10 shots back. It used to be Tiger playing in a tournament all to himself. It can be again, if he just cleans up the mistakes. Woods tied Molinari for the most birdies of the week with 21. He absolutely has the firepower to do this and maybe even to start running away from some fields again. It’s in there. He just has to rid himself of what else is in there.
• Speaking of what he needs to clean up, this was the first thing he mentioned Sunday at the podium and it was on my mind all week:
“Well, I think the last two days playing 13 and 14 the way I did … I bogeyed 13 twice and then didn't birdie 14 either day and I was right there next to the green,” he said. “Those are things that I can't afford to do and expect to win a golf tournament.”
For context, the par-4 13th is a 367-yard, iron-wedge scoring opportunity. He missed two birdie putts from inside 7 feet on that green Thursday and Friday, and then made a mess of the benign hole Saturday and Sunday with wayward tee balls that set him up for bogeys. The driveable par-4 14th is another hole to circle, but he did that just once this week and lipped out a 3-footer on Sunday. In total, he played two of the easiest holes of the week a combined 1 over.
• He took a nice little shot at one of the golf associations. I’ll let you guess which one. When asked about the upcoming Open Championship, he mused: “That's one of the neat things about playing The Open Championship, they don't really care what par is, they just let whatever Mother Nature has. If it's in store for a wet Open, it is. If it's dry, it's dry. They don't try and manufacture an Open.” Ya huh.
• Alright, where do we leave this? I think the disappointment stems from just how brilliant he looked on the front nine this weekend and how he couldn’t extend that brilliance to the back. There were flashes once again this week, just as there have been so many other times this year. We’re just waiting for those flashes to be more than flashes. Then maybe he’ll be the one winning by eight.