Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Tiger Woods likes where his game is at
By Bob Harig
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Preparing for his first PGA Tour event of the 2012 season, Tiger Woods said Tuesday that a poor final round in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago when he had a chance to win has not deterred him and that he is pleased with the state of his game.
Woods failed to close out a win despite holding a share of the 54-hole lead with unheralded Englishman Robert Rock.
But Woods took the positives out of the result, which he viewed as a continuation of strong play toward the end of 2011, when he was third at the Australian Open, had a solid Presidents Cup and won the unofficial Chevron World Challenge.
His tie for third at the European Tour event gives him a run of three consecutive top-3s in stroke-play events.
"Even though I lost, I was very pleased with the [fact] that was my bad day of ballstriking, and it wasn't that bad," Woods said of a final-round 72 that left him 2 strokes back.
Woods noted that the stats didn't look good -- just two fairways hit in the final round and only six greens in regulation. That naturally led to wondering if the changes he's been working on under coach Sean Foley were not quite ready for such a test.
But Woods also said that several of his tee shots ran through fairways, and that he putted from off of several greens. Regardless, he is taking the positives out of the experience as he looks to play this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time in 10 years.
"If I can have that as my bad ballstriking day, then we're looking pretty good," Woods said. "I'm excited about that. The previous three days were very good."
He has gone 26 tournaments dating to November 2009 without winning an official event.
Woods will play the first round at Spyglass Hill on Thursday (10:01 a.m. local time), followed by Monterey Peninsula on Friday (9:17) and Pebble Beach on Saturday (8:22).
Woods will play with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in the pro-am format that requires each team to play at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club over the first three rounds. The cut is then made after 54 holes, with all pros and the top amateur teams advancing to the final round on Sunday at Pebble Beach.
This is Woods' first PGA Tour event since a tie for 30th in October at the Frys.com Open. After a run of six straight years at Pebble Beach, which saw him win the 2000 tournament as well as the 2000 U.S. Open here, Woods has not played the tour event since 2002. He tied for fourth here at the 2010 U.S. Open.
Woods said he is excited about playing with Romo, who has a solid enough game that he has made it through local qualifying for the U.S. Open. Woods said he was shocked to learn that organizers were originally set to give Romo a plus-3 handicap -- which means Romo would have to add 3 strokes to his score for handicap purposes.
"He's been calling me quite a bit, sending me video of his golf swing, 'What can I do, what can I do,' " Woods said. "He's competitive and he's been grinding hard. It's been cool to see."
Woods also weighed in on the issue of belly and long putters, which the United States Golf Association said at its annual meeting Saturday would be reviewed. The rules-making body will study whether the clubs should be allowed to be anchored against the body.
"I've never been a fan of it," Woods said of the putters which have become more popular lately. Keegan Bradley was the first player to capture a major championship at last year's PGA using an anchored putter. "I believe it's the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that's how it should be played. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to that."
Woods said he has talked to R&A and USGA officials about a rule that would prevent a putter from being longer than the shortest club in the bag.
The USGA, however, said it is not looking at the clubs so much as it is determining if it is OK for them to be anchored to the stomach or chest.
Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com