August 02, 2015

Tiger finishes strong at Quicken Loans National

Tiger Woods got his big gallery roaring Sunday with a fast start in the final round of the the ninth Quicken Loans National at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. He birdied five of his first 10 holes to soar up the leaderboard but couldn’t sustain it that play on the back nine.

Still, Woods posted a 3-under-par 68 and finished in a tie for 18th. It stands as his second-best showing of the 2015 PGA Tour season, bettered only by a tie for 17th at the Masters.

Tiger, who also served as tournament host, carded rounds of 68-66-74-68 to finish at 8-under 276.

“I hit it really well,” said Tiger. “I didn’t really miss a shot on the front nine. I felt like I had total control of the golf ball.”

After missing his first six fairways on Saturday, he found the first six on Sunday. Paired with John Huh on a warm, windless morning, the two-time winner was followed by an enormous, encouraging crowd.

Woods two-putted the first two holes from long range for pars, hitting the pin with his approach shot at the par-4 first, then broke through with a nine-foot birdie putt at the 500-yard par-4 third, where he crushed a 337-yard drive and hit a 9-iron from 163 yards. He added another at the 210-yard par-3 fourth, knocking his tee shot nine feet from the flag. Tiger made it three straight at the 555-yard par-5 fifth, where he reached the green in two from 236 yards and two-putted for a birdie from 60 feet.

Woods two-putted the sixth and seventh holes for pars from long distance, then had a good chance for another birdie at the reachable-in-two 585-yard par-5 eighth. Even after driving in the right rough, Tiger played his second shot 115 yards short of the green and lofted a wedge right over the flag, the ball finishing 12 feet above the hole. But he couldn’t convert.

At the 200-yard par-3 ninth, Woods hit his tee shot 42 feet below the cup and rolled the birdie putt into the center of the cup to make the turn in 4-under 32.

Tiger missed only one fairway and one green and used 14 putts in a stellar front-nine performance.

Woods ignited the fans again at the 380-yard par-4 10th, where he hit a nice approach shot from 138 yards to six feet and made the putt to reach 10-under for the tournament. Then he lost his momentum.

At the 162-yard par-3 11th, Tiger hit an 8-iron 25 feet right of the hole and faced a slick, downhill putt. He gave it a good run, the ball sliding about three feet past the cup, then had a 360-degree lip-out on his par putt, his third three-putt of the tournament.

“I really had it going,” he said. “I took my eye off it because I thought I made it. I was about to take a step and the next thing I know, it’s coming back at my feet.”

Clearly deflated, Woods blocked his drive into the hazard on the right at the 500-yard par-4 12th. After taking a drop, his ball settled into a poor lie in the rough, and he faced a blind, uphill shot to the green from 212 yards. Tiger considered hitting a short iron back into the fairway but went for the riskier play with a 5-wood and hit it perfectly, the ball landing in the middle of the green, rolling past the pin and settling on the back fringe. It was an amazing shot, but Woods ended up with bogey nonetheless when his par putt burned the right edge of the hole.

After a two-putt par at 13, Woods dropped another stroke at the 562-yard par-5 14th. He drove into the right rough, laid up short of a water hazard fronting the green, then clipped a wedge from 109 yards to the front pin that landed four feet short of the hole and spun back into the water. After taking a drop, Tiger flew his next shot past the pin and the ball spun back eight feet under the hole. He made the putt to salvage bogey.

Woods two-putted the par-4 15th hole for a par from 24 feet, then gave himself a great birdie opportunity at the 171-yard par-3 16th, nestling a 9-iron nine feet left of the pin. But the putt slid low, and he settled for a par.

At the 381-yard par-4 17th, Tiger flushed an iron down the fairway, then hit a good approach shot from 165 yards to about six feet and made the putt for his sixth birdie of the round. Woods set himself up for another good birdie chance at the par-4 18th hole, where he hit is approach shot from 140 yards 12 feet from the pin but couldn’t take advantage.

After struggling mightily from tee to green on Saturday, Tiger turned things around on Sunday. He hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. He ulitmately finished with 29 putts.

More encouraging, Woods collected 20 birdies during the tournament, and his short game was solid. That bodes well in two weeks when he returns to competition in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits Golf Club in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

“My short game is starting to come back to where it used to be,” said Tiger. “Everything is starting to trend in the right direction, which is nice.”

Proceeds from the Quicken Loans National help fund the Tiger Woods Foundation and local charities.