Tiger Woods’ game at TPC Potomac a mix of brilliance, agony
POTOMAC, Md. There were flashes of brilliance this week, enough to make it seem like the Tiger Woods of old was destined to make one last appearance in the spotlight. But there were also agonizingly close misses enough to remind fans a return to that kind of dominance is a longshot at best.
Woods spent four days at TPC Potomac knocking down flagsticks with his precise iron play keeping him just on the edge of contention. Close enough to make an 80th PGA Tour victory seem within grasp he finished in a tie for fourth but never truly threatening those at the top of the leaderboard.
No one was going to match Francesco Molinari, who shot a final round 62 and lapped the field for an eight-stroke win on Sunday. But Woods certainly had his chances.
The roars that echoed throughout the grounds after his chip-in for birdie at 18 on Friday and his run of four consecutive birdies on Saturday were roars that only Woods could produce. Save for the back nine on Sunday, it was as if he was the only player in the field.
But every time his momentum seemed inevitable, Woods instead ran into trouble, shooting himself out of position and forced to play defense.
On Sunday Woods made the turn in three under to give himself an outside chance at the title, but a missed birdie putt from six feet at the 10th followed by a sloppy bogey from the middle of the fairway at 11 completely took the air from his sails. If that wasn’t enough, a birdie miss from three feet at 14 made his two birdies down the stretch meaningless.
Saturday was a similar story. Beginning the day four shots back, Woods bogeyed the opening hole before electrifying the crowd with four straight birdies at the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh holes to get within one shot of the lead.
It had the makings of a special day, but Woods missed birdie putts from inside 10 feet at 10 and 11, dropped a shot at 13 after missing the fairway well right with an iron, and closed with a bogey at 18 to kill any momentum left from that hot start.
“It was frustrating because I played better than what my score indicates,” Woods said Saturday. “I know I got off to a rough start bogeying 1 and very easily could have bogeyed 3, but then to get it to 3 under par for the day by the turn and I had some birdie opportunities on the back nine, didn’t make them and made a couple bogeys there, too, as well.”
Woods believes his game is getting closer, there were still several shots he would like to have back.
“Well, I think the last two days playing 13, 14 the way I did,” Woods said Sunday. “I bogeyed 13 twice and then didn’t birdie 14 either day and I was right there next to the green. Those are things that I can’t afford to do and expect to win a golf tournament.”
In his heyday, Woods was the best frontrunner in the game. He’s held the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour 45 times and won an astounding 43 of those events, that’s a 95.6 percent conversion rate. He made a career out of stepping on opponents’ necks at every possible opportunity.
After spending years seemingly willing the ball in the hole when it mattered most, Woods has lacked that clutch trait this season. Woods switched putters this week, moving away from the putter he won 13 of his 14 major championships with, a desperate measure by Tiger’s standards.
Woods was encouraged by the progress he made on the greens this week, saying that the putter switch worked out. He rolled in plenty of long putts, but struggled inside 10 feet.
Woods will resume his quest for a 15th major championship in three weeks when The Open Championship returns to Carnoustie. Asked if he would change anything about his practice routine, he noted that he would work on moving the ball both ways.
“Carnoustie is an unbelievable driving golf course, you have to drive the ball well there, but also it’s it’s not your traditional in-out golf course,” Woods said. “It’s a lot of different angles, so a lot of different crosswinds. I have to be able to maneuver the golf ball both ways there efficiently. You just have to hit the golf ball well there.”