It may be premature to announce "he's back", but there was no denying that Tiger Woods was at least worthy of his traditional Sunday shirt colour yesterday. With a deep-in-the-red 66, the former world No 1 produced his best final round in any tournament since he returned from the sex scandal to gain his highest placing of the season at the WGC Cadillac Championship.
It was hardly an evening to be celebrating, seeing as Woods has won six times at Doral and he could only finish eight shots behind his compatriot Nick Watney. But to paraphrase his stock staying, "he is what he is" at the moment and a top-10 finish is not the "so what" it once would have been.
"Of course it bothers me, " said Woods, when asked about his losing run extending to 19 tournaments. "I want to win golf tournaments. That's the whole idea of entering events... but I showed positive signs for the next time I play, which is a good thing."
That next time will be the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his last prep event before The Masters. Woods will now go into Bay Hill with a lot more confidence having ironed out at least a few of his problems with his new swing. With his 70 on Saturday, he was eight-under for the weekend.
" I felt I progressed as the week progressed," said Woods, who in the next days will compete in the Tavistock Cup, an exhibition event at his home course of Isleworth, Florida. "[In the first two rounds] I got side-tracked and didn't really know what the fix was a couple of times. Today, when I did mis-hit one, I knew what the fix was right away and, boom, got right back on my run of hitting good shots again. That felt good."
How Sean Foley, his coach, would have welcomed Woods's finish, which after his 70 on Saturday saw him eight-under for the weekend. The Canadian coach has come in for intense criticism of late as Woods has struggled with his new swing. Woods backed Foley last night.
"As far as feeling for him, yeah, he's never dealt with this before," said Woods. " You know, for some reason, I tend to get a little bit more scrutinised than most players do; analysed to the nth degree about what goes on within one round of golf. That's something that's new to him. But Sean said one positive thing is I'm always on TV. Which is good. As he gets to look at a lot of my swings."
Watney was a worthy winner, his 67 for a 16-under total enough to account for the overnight leader, Dustin Johnson. It was easily the highly-regarded 29-year-old's biggest win of his career. Britain's Luke Donald, the world No 3 who won the WGC World Match Play two weeks' ago, had to be content with a tie for sixth after a 72. Meanwhile, the two players above him on the rankings, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, both finished on six-under. Westwood was the happier having closed with a 68. The Englishman will now take a fortnight off before concluding his Masters preparations at the Houston Open.
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