Tiger Woods has much work left to do

September, 3, 2010

NORTON, Mass. -- Whether faced with a query about his placement on the upcoming Ryder Cup team or his dubious status as the No. 1-ranked player in the world or his attempt to advance in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Tiger Woods often proffers a familiar response.

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Tiger Woods
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesTiger Woods was full of questions but few answers after shooting 72 on Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Winning takes care of everything.

With all those factors currently in doubt, Woods could go a long way toward having his answer ring true at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Instead, he might be about to cloud each issue even more.

Woods posted an opening-round 1-over 72 on Friday at TPC Boston, which doesn't sound so deflating until you check the leaderboard.

For the day, only 13 competitors in the 99-man field failed to shoot even-par or better. The leaders -- Zach Johnson and Jason Day -- each fired a 63, nine strokes better than Tiger.

"I didn't drive it good, I didn't putt good, I didn't hit my irons good," an outwardly dejected Woods said after the round. "I wasn't really doing what I was supposed to be doing out there, swing-wise. Wasn't releasing the putter blade. It was a bad day all around."

At least he speaks the truth. Woods hit just six of 14 fairways (95th in the field) and 11 of 18 greens in regulation (77th), while his putting was also suspect, ranking in the bottom half of the field.

Truth is, though, he actually did well to keep his score where it was. Through his opening six holes, Woods was 4-over, placing him in sole possession of last place at the time, only to battle back, playing his final dozen holes in 3-under.

"I was shocked that he was over par," said one of Woods' playing partners, Michael Sim, who also was paired with him during the final round of last week's Barclays. "I didn't think he would come out and struggle early the way he played on Sunday, but it was nice to see him fight back to 1-over. A lot of guys would probably throw in the towel at 4-over, but he hung in there. He could easily come out [Saturday] and shoot 7- or 8-under."

That might be necessary in order to address those aforementioned lingering factors, each of which is still very much in suspense.

Although United States captain Corey Pavin has maintained that none of his four wild-card selections are guaranteed to anyone, we would have to believe that Woods is not only high on his list, but has clinched a place on the roster independent of this week's result.

His grasp on the top spot of the Official World Golf Ranking has been slipping throughout the year, and it's not inconceivable that another player could be in that position for the first time in more than a half-decade come Tuesday morning. If Woods finishes outside the top nine this week, Phil Mickelson could vault to No. 1 with a third-place result or Steve Stricker could surpass Tiger with a victory.

While that option remains a very strong possibility, Woods' continuation in the FedEx Cup playoffs is even more tenuous. At 65th on the points list entering this week, he needs to finish somewhere between 52nd and 57th in order to advance. With the top 70 players reaching next week's BMW Championship, Tiger's current placement of T-86 on the leaderboard means he is on the outside looking in. Failure to go low in the second round might not only result in his second missed cut of the season, but it could signal his final official round of the 2010 PGA Tour season.

"Obviously, I'm going to have to shoot something pretty good [Saturday], just get some kind of momentum going," he said. "We've got easy holes starting out, but we don't know what kind of weather we're going to have, so a lot depends on what the weather does. But either way, I'm still going to have to shoot a good score."

Woods is right. Winning does take care of everything. He hasn't yet won this year, though, and as he's finding out, losing leaves everything up in the air.

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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