April 08, 2018

Woods Has His Best Round at 3-Under 69 To End The Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Shortly after posting a 3-under-par 69 Sunday, his best round of the week, Tiger Woods was asked to assess his performance.

“It was possibly the highest score I could have shot today,” he said. “All in all, it was a bittersweet ending.”

The fire is back.

Never mind that a year ago, Woods had trouble getting out of bed after his fourth back surgery and only played once on the PGA Tour. He’s back in competitive mode and his expectations are high.

So while most consider his tie for 32nd at the 82nd Masters a success, Woods wasn’t satisfied. After sitting out three of the last four years at Augusta National, he was determined to make up for lost time.

“I thoroughly missed playing in major championships,” said Woods, whose last appearance came at the 2015 Masters, a span of 1,089 days. “Normally, I build my schedule around them. I struggled with my irons and didn’t put it together when I needed to the entire week. It was disappointing in that regard.”

Woods finished at 1-over 289, 16 strokes behind winner Patrick Reed.

After collecting two top five finishes coming in, Woods entered with confidence and momentum. But his irons weren’t sharp, especially his wedges, and his putting was off.

“You miss it just a touch here and it gets magnified,” Woods said.

He wasn’t pleased about three-putting the last hole, his second of the round. The bogey kept Woods from attaining his goal of getting back to even par for the tournament.

“I drove it on a string today, which was nice,” he said. “Another loose day with the irons and I putted awful.”

Woods chatted with playing partner Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain throughout the round, smiling often. He was that way all week, soaking up the atmosphere and reconnecting with players.

As for his round, Woods didn’t exaggerate; it could have been special. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation.

Woods lipped out a short birdie putt at the first hole, rimmed out a short par putt at seven, and another at nine. In all, he missed five putts inside six feet and used a week-high 32.

At the 232-yard par-3 fourth, he nearly jarred his tee shot.

Woods finally got untracked on the back nine, two-putting the par-5 13th for birdie, then eagled the par-5 15th, purring a slick left-to-right downhill putt into the center of the cup.

He added another birdie at 17. Even with the closing bogey, Woods played the side in 3-under 33.

Using new shafts in his driver and 3-wood, Woods seemed to get more comfortable each day off the tee. That was especially evident on the par-5s. After playing them in even, 2-under and 1-over during the first three rounds, Woods blitzed them in 5-under Sunday.

In 2016 and 2017, Woods came to Augusta National for the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night, then left. It was painful in more ways than one.

This year, he was a participant and earned cheers seemingly every step of the way. The patrons applauded as he walked up the 18th fairway on Sunday. After putting out, the four-time champion received another standing ovation, tipping his hat.

“It didn’t pan out,” Woods said. “But it sure felt good to play. The last two years, I just came here to eat. This is one of the greatest walks in all of golf.”

Having competed five of the last eight weeks, Woods will take a break, hit the gym, and concentrate on fitness.

He was pain-free at Augusta, covered the hills with easy strides, and looked relaxed.

“Generally after this tournament, I put away the clubs away for a while,” said Woods. “I usually take three to four weeks off. I put the clubs in the closet and just kind of get away.”

Major championships take a toll, physically and mentally.

“The run-up to this event is pretty hard and pretty grueling,” said Woods. “I pushed myself pretty hard to get ready. And I peaked at it four times (at Augusta) over the course of my career and it’s tiring.”

Woods is projected to rise to 88th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s excited about his progress and looking forward to the rest of the year.

“I’m six tournaments into it,” Woods said of his comeback. “To be able to compete out here and score like I did, it feels good.”