Tiger Woods on Play­ers rally: This week­end was more like it

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MARK LONG AP Sports Writer

PONTE VE­DRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Stand­ing in the mid­dle of the 14th fair­way with a sand wedge in his hands, Tiger Woods had a chance.

At mak­ing a birdie. At cut­ting into Webb Simpson's lead. Maybe even at win­ning for the first time since re­turn­ing from a fourth back surgery.

Woods was 110 yards out and four shots back in the fi­nal round. He struck the ball cleanly, stared at in­tently and then watched it spin off the green .

The 14-time ma­jor win­ner fell a few feet short of pro­vid­ing the first real drama Sun­day on the Sta­dium Course at TPC Saw­grass.

He missed an 8-foot par putt that caused him to flip his club, ended up with a dis­ap­point­ing bo­gey and limped home with a dou­ble at the famed 17th. Woods, how­ever, left the course feel­ing bet­ter than ever about his come­back. “This week­end was more like it,'' Woods said.

Woods shot a 3-un­der 69 in the fi­nal round and tied for 11th at 11-un­der 277. His round could have been much closer to the 65 he shot Satur­day.

“If I would have got off to a bet­ter start this week, if I would have had the game I had this week­end the be­gin­ning of the week, I would have gave Webb a lit­tle bit of a run,'' said Woods, who fin­ished seven shots be­hind Simpson.

Woods felt like he fi­nally pulled to­gether all as­pects of his game: His driv­ing was im­pec­ca­ble, his iron play was bet­ter than it's been all week and his putting was as good as it's been all sea­son. He stirred packed gal­leries into a frenzy on Mother's Day while wear­ing his tra­di­tional red shirt. Fans young and old stood dozens deep, scur­ry­ing from tee to fair­way to green, just for a brief peek at Woods.

“I hit it so good,'' said Woods, gloss­ing over a num­ber of less-than-ideal wedge shots in the fi­nal round. “It was nice. I had con­trol of it from tee to green. I made some putts. I felt good on ba­si­cally ev­ery facet of the game. Not to re­ally mishit a shot to­day and only shoot 3un­der par is just weird, be­cause I played much bet­ter than that.''

The back nine was his big­gest is­sue all week, though.

Woods was 11 un­der on the front, in­clud­ing a scorch­ing 10 un­der dur­ing the week­end af­ter mak­ing the cut on the num­ber. He was even on the back, which was slightly eas­ier for ev­ery­one else.

Still, the big-picture view is mostly pos­i­tive for the world's most pop­u­lar player.

“There's no way I would have pre­dicted I would be at this point the be­gin­ning of the year, the way I was just com­ing back and just try­ing to get a feel for it and then hope­fully have a sched­ule,'' he said. “Didn't know. But now I feel like I've got my play­ing feels and I'm play­ing tour­na­ment golf and I've got it. I'm not that far off from win­ning golf tour­na­ments.'' Woods will take two weeks off be­fore play­ing the Me­mo­rial Tour­na­ment, which po­ten­tially could be his fi­nal tuneup be­fore the U.S. Open in June.

He moved up 12 spots in the world rank­ing, rising to No. 80 af­ter the Play­ers.

“He's clearly play­ing some re­ally good golf,'' fel­low golfer Ja­son Day said. “If he got off to a half-de­cent start, I mean who knows what would have hap­pened on the week­end. And he may be walk­ing off with a third Play­ers Cham­pi­onship.''

Simpson ended up with the tro­phy, which was about as sur­pris­ing as some­one hit­ting into the murky la­goon at the is­land green.

Woods could have made it much more sus­pense­ful by mak­ing birdie at the dif­fi­cult 14th, a hole that has given him trou­ble in re­cent years. He blis­tered his drive 354 yards to leave him­self in prime po­si­tion for an­other birdie.

He came up just short of be­ing re­ally good and mak­ing the fi­nal round re­ally in­ter­est­ing.

“I didn't re­ally miss a shot to­day, so I'm not that dis­ap­pointed with it,'' he said. “I hit it good all day long, and it's just the way it goes.''

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF PGA.COM

REAL PLAYER: Tiger Woods shot a 65 mark­ing his low­est score ever at the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship match.

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