DUBLIN, Ohio – In the final round of the Memorial Tournament, Tiger Woods knew the road to a comeback victory would be difficult. He knew he would need a quick start, plus a little help from the leaders behind him, to be back over meaningful putts on the final holes of the tournament.
Equipped with all the knowledge and the greatest control over his momentum, Woods has brought his game plan to perfection in years. For exactly one hole.
A clinical analysis of the opener at Muirfield Village Golf Club was as good as for Woods. First the birdie putts in the middle area started to slide left and right, then the short miss that had plagued him the whole week caught again at the turn. When he butchered the 1
The game continues to progress, and the roar is still old-fashioned. But when it comes to the final round, Woods keeps coming back empty-handed. Granted, that was of a different magnitude than his close calls in Tampa and Orlando. Woods started the day five strokes from the top and never got closer than four with a handful of names above his top spot. There was not a single shot that cost him, a binary result that changed his fate with a single stroke.
This was instead a slow bleeding up close, a 5 foot failure after another.
Woods scored seven such mistakes this week, mixed under five three-putts. He missed at the end of a playoff by six strokes. After winning the field in blows: tee-to-green and close to the hole, he finished 72 nd of 73 in putting.
While each player can tell with vivacious details, which let them get away, especially on greens that are as smooth and hilly as the areas at Jack, Woods knew all week that he had only one club to answer for.
"If I'm just normal, I'd probably be right there with those guys and up there in the last few groups," Woods said. "If I continue to work as I do now, I'm in good shape for two weeks."
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This would be in the style of the US Open, where they make their 26 ten attempt at Major No. 15 becomes. And while his mood was decidedly more optimistic than the grumpy tones After a frustrating third round, Woods still has a big hurdle to overcome before returning to his former strength on the weekend.
Woods has now completed eight final rounds at official events during this latest comeback series to score more than a 69 in each of them. While this is usually the hardest and hardest, it means that despite his position in the rankings, he still struggles to attract a Sunday crowd in a season in which he has surpassed almost all other expectations. This week, Woods was sixth on tour this season in the third round and 59 th in terms of the finals. These spreads will not come closer after he has accurately estimated that a 63 was within range before playing 72 in a final round that at times felt like a 75.
"I had small building blocks in the way, and I'm getting a little better, a bit more sophisticated, and you see the results," Woods said. "If I make just a few more putts, as I did earlier in the year, when I fit really well, you put the two together and then I'll have something."
The ability to balance the different parts serves to frustrate mentally only if they do not converge in practice. Woods could not buy a putt when it looked like he could make the Valspar championship his watershed win, and it was the rider who cost him at Bay Hill. Errant Iron was the culprit in the Masters, while a pair of poor wedges condemned his comeback bid at TPC Sawgrass.
This time, the finger of guilt was aimed directly at his Scotty Cameron, a trusted ally for so many years, no doubt the villain who stood between him and really argued over the weekend.
It seems straightforward, with Woods speaking of a "slight tweak" that can be done with a few weekly repeats. But what if the driver he's hit twice in Ohio only finds the devilish beating in Shinnecock Hills this month? What if the putter works together, which are short-range marks for bogeys instead of birdies?
Golf is an annoying game at its core. It's a revelation to every player who has ever won a club, but it's also one that Woods has admirably avoided for years. But as the last comeback shows, he is still mortal. His game is subject to the same moody whims that plague the rest of the field.
And so he waits, and we wait, for the moment, when everything comes together. It feels close to the horizon – much closer than ever expected a few months ago. But after another overwhelming last lap he is not there yet.