March 12, 2018

Woods Finishes Tied For Second at Valspar Championship

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Tiger Woods made a valiant bid to capture his 80th PGA Tour victory, but came up one short Sunday at the Valspar Championship.

In only his fourth PGA Tour start of the year and fifth since 2015, Woods had a chance to catch clubhouse leader Paul Casey on the final green but was unable to convert a 39-foot uphill birdie putt on the toughest hole of the day.

One hole earlier, he turned Innisbrook Resort upside down by pouring in a 44-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th.

“I gave myself a chance.” Woods said.

Woods closed with a 1-under-par 70 – his fourth consecutive sub-par round on the difficult Copperhead Course – and tied for second with Patrick Reed at 9-under 275. Casey, who finished almost 90 minutes before Woods, fired a 65 to conclude at 10-under 274.

It was his best showing on the PGA Tour since tying for 10th at 2015 Wyndham Championship, and his best finish since a tie for second at the 2013 Barclays, in the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.

“I think I’m a little bit better than I was a couple weeks ago at the Honda, and I keep getting a little bit shaper,” said the 42-year-old Woods. “Today wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked, but I had a good shot at winning this golf tournament, and a couple putts here and there, it could have been a different story.”

Starting the last round one off the lead, Woods pulled even with 54-hole leader Corey Conners with a birdie at the par-5 first hole. Paired with Brandt Snedeker for the fifth time this year, Woods grooved his opening drive, reached the green in two with an iron, and two-putted for a birdie from 43 feet.

He didn’t make another until 17.

In between irons most of the day, he chose not to attack the pins and carded 12 straight pars. Woods gave himself good birdie looks at the par-5 fifth and par-3 eighth holes, but never get untracked on the greens, struggling with his speed.

“I was just grinding to try and put myself in there,” he said.

Woods hit eight of 13 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. But after using 25, 26 and 28 putts in the first three rounds, he needed 32 on Sunday.

Arguably the turning point came at the par-5 14th, where Woods drilled a drive and flushed an iron to the front of the putting surface. He left an 80-foot eagle putt 10 feet short and was unable to capitalize.

“Should have two-putted,” he said.

While Woods was disappointed with the outcome, he has proved to himself and everyone around the game that winning again is a reality. A year ago, he wasn’t sure. Eleven months ago, he underwent spinal fusion surgery on his back and has only been swinging a club for about five months.

“My game was solid the entire week,” said Woods. “As a whole, I felt really good about what I did. I’m progressing.”

Woods tied for 16th in fairways hit (31 of 52) and found 48 of 72 greens. He also ranked eighth in the field in strokes gained on approach shots.

Woods’ last victory came at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Playing in the Valspar Open for the first time in his career, he never fell out of the top 10. This, after tying for 12th at Honda.

His peers have been effusive with praise.

“I said a couple times, if I don’t win this thing I actually want Tiger to win,” Casey said.

Next week, Woods returns to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where has won eight times. Woods was close to late host Arnold Palmer and is excited to return for the first time since 2013.

“I’ve got some good memories,” he said.