ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The last chance to win a major championship in 2013 looms this week at Oak Hill Country Club, and for Tiger Woods it is another opportunity to put to rest the questions about when he will capture that elusive 15th major title.
Woods, who has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, is coming off a victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, the 79th of his PGA Tour career. But questions about winning majors are more prevalent these days, and Woods admitted the quest for No. 15 is proving to be the most difficult.
"It kind of seems that way,'' he said. "It's been probably the longest spell I've had since I haven't won a major championship. I came out here very early and got my first one back in '97 (at the Masters, his first major as a pro.)
"I've certainly had my share of chances to win. I've had my opportunities there on the back nine, probably half of those Sundays for the last five years where I've had a chance, and just haven't won it. But the key is to keep giving myself chances, and eventually I'll start getting them.''
Woods tied for sixth just more than two weeks ago at the Open Championship, his ninth top-10 finish in the 17 majors he's played since winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
He was not in contention at the U.S. Open, but tied for fourth, four strokes back of Adam Scott, at the Masters.
In the past, Woods has said it's not a great year without a major championship, and that any major win -- regardless of what happens the rest of the year -- makes it a great year.
He amended that slightly Tuesday, saying that his five victories -- including two World Golf Championship titles and his win at the Players Championship -- make this a great year regardless.
"This year, for me, I think it's been a great year, winning five times, and you look at the quality of tournaments I've won,'' he said. "That's pretty good.''
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One factor cited in Woods' major woes has been his play on the weekends. In the past two years, he has yet to shoot in the 60s of any weekend major round -- including last year when he was the 36-hole leader at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
At Muirfield on July 21, Woods began the final round just two strokes behind Lee Westwood, but three-putted two of the first four holes – after indifferent approach shots – and ended up five strokes behind winning Phil Mickelson following a final-round 74.
Although Woods putted nicely for most of last week at Firestone Country Club -- including just 22 putts during his second-round 61 -- it has been an issue for him at times this year.
He had two of the best putting weeks of his career in victories at the WGC Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. Before the former event, he received some well-publicized putting help from Steve Stricker -- who played with Woods in a practice round Monday at Oak Hill.
"I wanted him to take a look at my angles of my shoulders and my arms, facial rotation, things of the nature,'' Woods said.
Last week Woods came to Rochester prior to the Bridgestone Invitational and said the greens were "spotty'' and not very fast. Agronomical issues due to flooding and extreme heat had the golf course staff treating them with extra care, and Woods said he noticed a difference seven days later.
"They have definitely got the speed up,'' he said. "I think there are close to 11-plus (on the green speed device known as a Stimpmeter). They have picked up a couple feet, easily, and I'm sure they are going to dry them out and roll them a little bit more and get a little bit more speed out of them.
"It's going to be a great test. There's not a lot of base to it. Obviously the greens have a little bit of sand underneath, but balls aren't ripping back because of that. They are just kind of digging in, so it's a little different than we played last year. But that's all feel and understanding. That's one of the reasons why I went around yesterday and chipped and putted so much, was to get a little bit more feel for that. I'll do more of that today and tomorrow.''
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