Tiger Woods found reason to be encouraged Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Woods ended another ordinary week on a course he once dominated by matching his best score of the year with a 6-under 66 at Doral that gives him his best finish this year through five tournaments.
He also found his sense of humor.
“I’m putting the pieces together,” Woods said. “Everything is kind of shaping up and heading the right direction, which is good, and peaking right at the right time … for the Tavistock Cup.”
He plays Monday and Tuesday in the made-for-TV Tavistock Cup exhibition. The real golf resumes a week later at Bay Hill, where he is a six-time winner. That will be his final event before the Masters.
Woods began the final round 11 shots out of the lead and made only one bogey on the sixth hole. He twice had back-to-back birdies on the back nine, including a shot he nearly holed on the 17th for a tap-in birdie.
He again used a mallet-shaped putter, a heel-shafted club that he often uses in practice. Woods struggled on the greens all week, but made his share of 10- and 15-footers to at least leave Doral in a good frame of mind.
Still missing is getting into contention.
“Of course it bothers me,” Woods said. “I want to win golf tournaments. That’s the whole idea of entering events is to win golf tournaments, and I didn’t do that this week. But I showed positive signs for the next time I play, which is a good thing.”
Woods has had trouble closing this year. He shot 75 in the final round at Torrey Pines, and the one time he was in contention at Dubai, he shot 75 the last round on a windy day to fall into a tie for 20th.
The 66 was his best final round since a 65 at the Australian Masters.
The scrutiny remains, however, and more attention is shifting to his new swing coach, Sean Foley, with whom Woods began working at the PGA Championship last August.
Woods had said late last year that he was picking up the new swing more quickly than his other swing changes. He finished the year with a playoff loss at the Chevron World Challenge. And while he blew a four-shot lead on the last day, he looked like the Woods of old. The mystery is what happened to that game during his two-month break.
He said he was “definitely not going the wrong way,” and understood the criticism Foley is starting to face. Hank Haney went through the same criticism, even as Woods was winning some 40 percent of his tournaments and six majors.
“He’s never dealt with this before,” Woods said of Foley. “For some reason, I tend to get a little bit more scrutinized than most players do, analyzed to the ‘nth’ degree about what goes on within one round of golf. That’s something that’s new to him. But he said one positive thing is I’m always on TV, which is good, so he gets to look at a lot of golf swings.”
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