Golf: Progress leaves Woods with mixed emotions
By Mike Cranston
Associated PressCHARLOTTE ó When Tiger Woods shot a 30 on the front nine during a seven-under 65 in the opening round of the Quail Hollow Championship, he appeared poised to dominate on a tough course with a major-like feel.
But Woods was still working out the kinks in his fifth tournament back from knee surgery. Entering Sunday two shots out of the lead, Woods wasted several birdie chances and one eagle opportunity, closing with 10 straight pars for a 72.
He finished at 9-under 286, good for fourth place, two shots behind winner and buddy Sean O’Hair.
“I’ve been very pleased with some of my progress. I’m also not so pleased with some of it,” Woods said. “It’s been spotty, streaky. I just need to get a little more consistent.”
In an event he won in 2007, Woods could have tied for the lead with an eagle when he drove the green on the par-4 14th. He ended up nearly four-putting.
“It was baked out. I knew that,” Woods said of the tricky, fast green, the signature element of this event. “It was downwind and I saw George (McNeill’s) putt roll out. I kept telling myself, ‘This putt is faster than it looks. It’s faster than it looks.’ And I didn’t heed my own warning.
“The next one I blocked again. And I made a wonderful 6-footer for my three-putt.”
Still, Woods believes his short game is ahead of the rest. He hit only 25 of 56 fairways.
“That’s all I did for months is chip and putt,” Woods said of his limitations during rehab. “I just need to get more crisp with my driving and my long irons. The longer stuff is not where I want it.”
He’s hardly been bad, with one win and four consecutive top-10 finishes. The next step is playing consecutive weeks for the first time at The Players Championship.
“I haven’t done it yet, and this will be a nice little test,” Woods said. “Obviously toward the end of the year we play a lot. You’ve just go to keep building toward that throughout the year and have no setbacks.”
JOHNSON HEADACHE: Third-round leader Zach Johnson had a nasty headache Sunday that affected his vision, perhaps from allergies.
It got worse when he triple-bogeyed a par 3 that has no water.
Johnson entered the day at 11 under and ahead by two shots. After parring the first hole, Johnson hit his tee shot on No. 2 so far right it hit a cart path and stopped 75 yards from the pin.
“It was just a dead block push. Got in front of it. Terrible swing,” Johnson said.
Facing a chip shot with a tree just to his right, Johnson hit the tree square. The ball ricocheted behind him and to the right, leaving him 80 yards to the hole.
“I was in pine straw,” Johnson said. “I hit it 8 feet right of where I was trying to hit it.”
He reached the green on his third shot, then three-putted after he lipped out a 6-footer for double.
nLEFTY’S CHARGE: Phil Mickelson declared himself out of contention Saturday after a 75 left him eight shots out of the lead. Lefty’s tune changed when he birdied No. 14 on Sunday to move to 8 under and within one of the lead.
“I never really thought about winning until the last four or five holes,” Mickelson said.
He finished with four straight pars and a 67 that momentarily left him in the mix.
“I enjoyed getting a good round and hitting some shots, making some key putts, feeling the pressure,” Mickelson said. “The last hole I had a 4-footer and I had pressure on that. That’s cool. I haven’t been in a tournament the last couple of weeks, and it was fun to feel that.”
nA SUCCESS: Ticket sales were down about 2,000 per day compared to last year. But the presence of Woods produced similar crowds to 2008, when he didn’t play.
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