July 30, 2014

Tiger looks to defend title at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

The South Course at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, usually brings out the best in Tiger Woods. He’s won there eight times and hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in the last five WGC-Bridgestone Invitationals.

Woods will be looking for similar magic this week when he begins defense of his title on Thursday.

“No matter what my form is … I just feel good,” Woods said. “I’ve had some pretty good memories here.”

Tiger needs a strong showing to move up in the FedExCup points standings. He’s currently 215th, and only the top 125 qualify for the first playoff tournament — The Barclays — Aug. 21-24 in New Jersey.

Also at stake is a Ryder Cup spot. Woods has the Bridgestone Invitational and next week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky — where he won in 2000 — to earn one of nine automatic berths. He can also make a favorable impression on U.S. captain Tom Watson, who has three wild card picks.

“I would like to win these two events and not have to worry about that,” Tiger said. “That’s the plan.”

Woods has competed in only two tournaments since undergoing back surgery for a pinched nerve on March 31. He missed the cut at the Quickens Loan National and finished 69th two weeks ago at the Open Championship.

Other than a travel day, Tiger said he has been on the course every day since playing at Royal Liverpool. He spent part of that time vacationing with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and his two kids.

“The most important thing is being a father,” he said.

Woods said his back feels stronger and his game is more explosive. But he also admitted the rehab has been much tougher than what he underwent after having major surgery on his left knee.

“No comparison,” Tiger said.

Woods has been in this position before. After battling injuries in 2011, he needed a strong finish to make the FedExCup playoffs and came up short.

“Hopefully, this go-around will be a little better,” Woods said.

Tiger tees off Thursday at 2:20 p.m. ET with Martin Kaymer. There is no cut in the $9 million event that features a field of 76 players.