Tiger Woods says game 'right on track' as Masters approaches
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Tiger Woods hit 12 of 14 fairways, made a 30-foot putt for birdie and holed out for par from a greenside bunker in the final round at The Players Championship.
Even though he finished in the middle of the pack, Woods liked the state of his game in preparation for the Masters.
"It's right on track," Woods said after shooting a 3-under 69 on Sunday. "I'm able to shape the golf ball both ways, which I'm going to need there. Just need a few more putts to go in, but that's about it."
Woods made four birdies in wet conditions and had decent looks at a few more, but failed to make many mid-length putts. Still, his 26 putts in the final round marked the first time he needed fewer than 30 this week on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
"I felt like I was playing well," he said. "My score didn't really indicate that going into the final day, but I was hitting the golf ball well. I'm frustrated at lipping more putts out than I think I have in a very long time. Just one of those weeks where just nothing really got rolling enough to get me going."
Woods' lone blunder - his only score worse than bogey all week - was a quadruple-bogey 7 at the famed par-3 17th in the second round. Woods put two balls in the water en route to matching his worst score on any par 3 in 24 years on the PGA Tour.
Had he not dropped four shots at the island green Friday, Woods could have been in the mix Sunday.
Regardless, he found more good than bad in his final stroke-play event before Augusta National (April 11-14). His last tuneup for the Masters will be the Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas, in two weeks, where he is guaranteed at least three rounds.
"I'm excited the way I drove it," he said. "I drove the ball well this week. I drove it not quite as long on the weekend with a little bit cooler temperatures, but I was driving it pretty straight and I was able to shape the golf ball both ways with all three of my woods, which was good to see."
Woods said he had no issues with his neck. He withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week with what he described as a strain. It was the first time the 43-year-old Woods withdrew from a tournament in two years, shortly before his fourth back surgery to fuse his lower spine.
He used the week off to get his body right.
"I needed that," he said. "I needed to get that organized. If my back gets tight, it's going to go up the chain and so I got to start at ground zero and get my lower back moving properly and get everything, the firing sequence good, and then after that the rest of the chain will take care of itself.
"I think that it was the right decision to make considering that I have April right around the corner."
Woods was at his best on the front nine. His bunker shot at the par-3 third was perfect and trickled in to save par. His approach shot in a stiff wind at No. 4 left him with a 4-footer for birdie. His long-range putt at the seventh riled up the morning crowd.
His round would have been better had he not barely missed a 15-footer at No. 14. He also missed an opportunity by hitting into the water at the par-5 16th and then needing a 15-footer to save par.
"I was close," Woods said. "I know the score doesn't really indicate that, but this is one of the golf courses that - there's some weird spots here. It was fun to play but ... this is probably the most stressful golf course you ever play when there's wind out here.
"The wind swirls and you have fairways that are tough to hit and then you have the greens that are tough to hit and put it in the right sections. And if you don't, you're going to be standing on your head hitting some shots. So only had a few of those this week, so all in all it was a solid week."
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