May 13, 2012

Tiger stumbles, steadies in finale at TPC Sawgrass

After a rough start, Tiger Woods battled back on the inward nine Sunday to post a 1-over-par 73 in the final round of the THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Woods finished with a 72-hole score of 1-under 287.

“I didn’t exactly get off to a good start,” said Woods. “I didn’t really hit any bad shots, and all of a sudden I had a bogey, a birdie and a double. Just one of those deals.”

Paired with Jim Furyk on a warm, breezy and overcast day, Woods needed to make an early charge to apply pressure to the leaders, but was unable to do so. In fact, he went the other way on a roller-coaster front nine that saw him make only four pars and shoot 40.

A poor drive at the par-4 first hole led to a bogey, with Woods missing from 16 feet. He bounced back with a birdie at the par-5 second hole, getting up and down from the left greenside bunker after an 11-foot putt.

After a long two-putt par at the par-3 third, Woods double-bogeyed the par-4 fourth, where he hit a nice drive in the fairway and had 136 yards remaining to the green over a fronting hazard. His approach came up short and found the water, however, and Tiger incurred a one-stroke penalty and was forced to drop. From there, he hit his fourth shot from 83 yards to within eight feet and missed the ensuing putt.

“I got a big gust of wind,” he said. “Just the way it is. I was just going to flight a little 9-iron over to the right and I just got smoked.”

Woods made a nice up-and-down par save at the fifth hole, but wasn’t as fortunate at the par-4 sixth. Tiger drove into the left fairway bunker, hit his second shot in the left greenside bunker, blasted 26 feet from the cup and two-putted for a bogey.

At the par-4 seventh, Woods knocked his tee shot into the left fairway bunker, played short of the green in two, then chipped to seven feet and was able to save par. But he dropped another shot at the 237-yard, par-3 eighth, missing the green long and left. Tiger chipped to 13 feet and was unable to finish off his par attempt.

Looking to make something good happen and gain some positive momentum for the back nine, Woods found the fairway at the par-5 ninth, then roped his second shot just long-right of the putting surface. From there, he chipped to just inside four feet and missed the birdie putt to make the turn in 4-over 40.

On the back nine, Woods two-putted for par from long distance at the par-4 10th and par-5 11th holes. At the 358-yard, par-4 12th, he hit a nice drive and faced only 90 yards to the pin. Tiger punched a sand wedge that almost flew into the cup and rolled four feet past the hole, and made the birdie putt.

At the 181-yard, par-3 13th, Woods drove long, then chipped to within five feet of the hole and made the par-saving putt. He two-putted the par-4 14th and par-4 15th holes for pars from 22 and 27 feet, respectively, then birdied the par-5 16th. At No. 16, Tiger drove way right off the tee, hit his second shot into the left rough near the green, lofted a sand wedge from 51 yards to six feet, and sank the putt.

Woods hit a nice tee shot into the dangerous 129-yard, par-3 17th hole, which features an island green surrounded by water. The ball checked up six feet left of the cup and he buried the birdie putt.

Tiger hit a good drive on the treacherous 462-yard, par-4 18th hole, where water guards the left side of the hole, then just missed the green to the right with his approach shot. Woods hit a nicely judged chip shot to just inside a foot and salvaged par.

For the day, Woods hit nine of 18 greens and eight of 14 fairways in regulation, and used a week-low 27 putts.

Unable to take care of the par 5s recently, Woods birdied two of four on Sunday and played them in 7-under for the tournament.

“I just need to be a little more consistent,” said Woods. “That’s something I didn’t do. I had a lot of irons into the par 5s and didn’t take care of them.”

Woods was also fooled by the wind.

“It’s been tough for me to get a beat on this wind here,” he said. “I’ve struggled with it. It’s hard to get any kind of momentum going when I hit a good shot and it ends up in a bad spot. That’s been frustrating all week.”