August 23, 2015

Tiger cards even-par 70, falls short of victory at Wyndham

Tiger Woods didn’t get the victory he wanted, but he proved to himself and golf fans around the world that he still has game.

One bad hole Sunday cost him a chance to contend for the title in the 76th Wyndham Championship at steamy Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. Were it not for a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 11th hole, who knows how things might have turned out?

This much we know: Woods battled back to birdie four of the last six holes to shoot an even-par 70 and tie for 10th, his best finish on the PGA TOUR this season in the last regular-season tournament and his first top 10 since tying for second at The Barclays in 2013. His first-ever appearance created a week-long buzz, as an extra 50,000 tickets were printed and attendance records were broken.

Tiger loved Greensboro, and they loved him back.

Woods wound up at 13-under 267, four shots behind winner Davis Love III. At 51, he became the third-oldest winner in PGA TOUR history, and played a nine-hole practice round with Tiger late Tuesday afternoon. Clearly, they were good tonic for each other.

“I gave myself a chance, and I had all the opportunity in the world today to do it,” Tiger said. “I didn’t get it done.”

Paired in the second-to-last twosome with Scott Brown, Woods began the final round two strokes behind leader Jason Gore. As was the case Friday and Saturday, Tiger had trouble keeping the ball below the hole on the slick, Bermuda greens, forcing him to be defensive. He missed two 15-foot birdie tries at the first two holes, then watched Brown make a hole-in-one at the 162-yard, par-3 third, high-fiving him.

Woods parred the first six holes before dropping a stroke at the 223-yard, par-3 seventh, where he pulled his tee left into the gallery, hit a nice flop shot six feet from the hole and missed the par putt. After parring the eighth hole, Tiger hit a good drive and made his best swing of the side on his second shot from 147 yards, the ball stopping eight feet right of the pin. Woods converted for birdie to make the turn at even-par 35 and trailed the leaders by three strokes.

Following a long two-putt par at 10, Tiger hit a poor drive into the rough at the par-4 11th, then pulled a 5-iron onto a closely-mown swale left of the green. Woods skulled his third shot over the green into heavy rough, fluffed his fourth shot short of the green, putted 12 feet past the cup and two-putted for a seven.

Clearly shaken, Tiger hooked his tee shot at the par-3 12th way left into the crowd, then came up short of the green with a flop shot. He did well to get up-and-down to save bogey.

Somehow, he regrouped and showed the heart that has helped him win 79 times on the PGA TOUR and capture 14 Major championships. Woods rattled off three straight birdies, hitting his approach shot 20 feet at the par-4 13th, eight feet at the par-4 14th, then made a nice up-and-down from short of the green at the par-5 15th and rolled in a testy six-foot downhill putt.

Tiger missed two birdie chances at the par-3 16th and par-4 17th, the latter from eight feet, but finished strong. After driving into the left rough at the 507-yard, par-4 18th, he muscled his uphill second shot to the back of the green and the ball caught the slope and trickled back six feet right of the hole. Woods made it and received hearty applause from the appreciative fans.

Tiger, who admitted afterward that his hip bothered him in the final round, hit nine of 14 fairways, 13 of 18 greens and used 28 putts.

“I just wasn’t able to get any kind of a roll early,” he said.

Gore, his long-time friend, finished second, and put perspective on his performance.

“I think it’s awesome to see him playing well again, to see him playing like Tiger Woods, because that’s what we all want to see,” he said.

Tiger can also feel good knowing for that for the first time this season, he shot three straight rounds in the 60s. His Top-10 finish was his highest since September 2013, when he tied for 11th at the BMW Championship.

However, Woods will not be eligible for the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs.

“This is my offseason right now,” Tiger said. “It will be nice. I’ve got lots of soccer games and practices to go to.”