<
>

Tiger Woods after final-round 72 at Memorial: 'Just need to hit better putts'

DUBLIN, Ohio -- The final-round charge fizzled, and after a week that showed so much promise, Tiger Woods had to settle for a spot in the back, 6 shots out of a playoff at the Memorial Tournament.

For Woods, the last memory of his four rounds at Muirfield Village will be sublime ballstriking, the best in the field and better than anything he has produced going back to the first of his four back surgeries.

But he also leaves the place of five of his 79 PGA Tour titles lamenting his lackluster putting and needing to get that sorted out in time for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

"I had some chances to shoot some good rounds this week,'' Woods said after a final-round 72 that left him in a tie for 23rd. "Overall my game is where it needs to be heading into the U.S. Open and that's something that's very positive.

"I just need to hit better putts. This week I didn't feel comfortable with my lines and my feel was a little bit off. Consequently I missed a bunch of putts. But I hit it really good this week, so that's a positive going into Shinnecock, where ballstriking is going to be a must.''

Woods was already looking ahead and suggested that his putting woes are a "minor tweak here and there.''

But they were a major impediment to more success. For the week, Woods had five three-putt greens and missed seven putts inside 5 feet. He needed 118 putts. And he was 72nd among the 73 players who played four rounds in strokes-gained putting, a statistic that measures how a player fares compared to the entire field.

For 72 holes, Woods was -7.695 meaning he gave up more than 7 shots on the greens; had that number been 0, in theory he would have finished 7 strokes better and been leading or certainly in a position to chase down eventual playoff winner Bryson DeChambeau.

Meanwhile, Woods was first in the field in strokes gained, tee to green; first in strokes gained, approach to the green; and first in proximity to the hole, with an average of 23 feet, 8 inches.

"Yeah,'' Woods sighed. "And if I just putt normally, I probably would be right up there with those guys and up there in the last couple of groups. Overall, if I just keep building on this, with how I'm hitting it right now, I'm in good shape for two weeks from now.''

Woods shot scores of 72-67-68-72 to finish at 9 under par. Three years ago, in his last appearance at Muirfield Village, Woods shot a third-round 85 and finished last in the field by 8 strokes. The year prior, in the midst of a five-victory season, he had a third-round 79 and finished 65th.

So the place had given him some fits of late and yet he bounced back from being 4 over par through 7 holes on Thursday to entering the final round with an outside shot at winning.

And things looked good when he birdied the first hole, but Woods could never get closer than 3 strokes to the leaders and again missed numerous changes, settling for just three birdies and three bogeys.

For the week, Woods made just one birdie over the closing three holes and played them in 3 over par.

Aside from falling out of contention, Woods missed out on a big opportunity to move up in the Official World Ranking, where he is projected to move up a few spots from 83rd but could have been hovering around the top 50 with a top-3 finish. Woods needs to be 50th in the world following The Open or the Canadian Open in July to secure a place in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, to be played at Firestone Country Club for the last time.

Woods has made it a big goal to qualify for the tournament at a venue where he has won eight times.

For now, Woods said he will spend his time at home practicing before heading to Shinnecock, where he spent two days earlier this week.

And he was again trying to keep things in perspective, having played his ninth tournament of the year.

"I've had little building blocks along the way, and I keep getting a little bit better, a little bit more refined, and you start to see the results,'' he said. "I'm starting to hit the golf ball better. If I just make a few more putts like I did earlier in the year, when I was putting really well, you put those two together, then we'll have something.''