Tiger believes he's rounding into form

August, 29, 2010

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Tiger Woods is back.

No, that's not my opinion, nor is it necessarily the viewpoint of his fellow players or the legions of fans who followed him around Ridgewood Country Club on Sunday as if his tour around the course were a victory coronation.

Instead, that's the feeling of Woods himself, who followed rounds of 65-72-73-67 at the Barclays by insisting that he's optimistic about the performance.

"Very pleased," he said after a final round that included five birdies against just one bogey and a T-12 finish. "I found something in my stroke today which was good. I was warming up, and I went with it. And I hit a lot of good putts today. … If I just putt well this week or for all four days, I'm right there. The way I hit the golf ball all week, drove it pretty much on the string all week. And really controlled my irons. Unfortunately didn't putt well in the middle two rounds."

If his first- and final-round scores are a harbinger of things to come, Woods might be right to have reason for optimism. Then again, this isn't a guy who is ever some kind of Debbie Downer when it comes to the state of his game.

For years, anytime Woods failed to reach the winner's circle, he would proffer a two-word insistence: "I'm close." When asked after Sunday's round the last time he felt this good about his game, he smiled and responded, "Probably PGA [Championship]. So probably not that long."

The difficulty comes in trying to separate the truth from Tiger's spin. Personal life aside, he has endured plenty of issues with the physical part of it recently, undergoing swing changes while "unofficially" working with new instructor Sean Foley.

For the week, Woods finished first in driving accuracy (78.6 percent) and T-6 in greens in regulation (72.2 percent). Yet he understands it's the flatstick that holds the key to success, both for the remainder of this season and for the long term.

"People don't realize you really do have to putt," he said after ranking 40th in total putts at Ridegwood. "Granted, my swing's a lot better. But you still have to make putts."

If his final-round putting performance wasn't reason enough for optimism, there's this: After starting the week at 112th on the FedEx Cup points list, Woods avoided an early conclusion to his season by qualifying for the upcoming Deutsche Bank Championship with a tie for 12th and taking an inside track on getting into the next week's BMW Championship, as well.

Considering his season to date hasn't included these usual givens, any good news should be cause for optimism right now. Woods believes he is close to winning once again. He will have another chance to prove it this coming week.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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