PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Barring an unforesee turn of events on Sunday afternoon, Tiger Woods will finish with his worst result of 2019 at the Players Championship. After improving with each event he played in—T-20 at Torrey, T-15 at Riviera, T-10 in Mexico—Woods will likely land outside the top 30 (he's T-32 as of now).
But Woods remains optimistic about his game, as he should. Friday's disastrous quadruple bogey on the 17th hole robbed him of what may have been another top-10 finish thanks to his final-round 69. The 14-time major winner saved his best round for the toughest conditions, touring the Stadium Course's front-nine in three-under 33 before cooling off on the back nine and making just one birdie and a bogey. In sub-60 degree temperatures and winds ranging from 10 to 20 miles per hour, he was nearly blemish-free, his only dropped shot coming at the pesky par-4 14th, his personal house of horrors at TPC Sawgrass.
The result may not show it, but Woods did a lot of good things this week, most notably his play off the tee, where he ranked fourth in strokes-gained/overall. His putting was another story, but he feels they're bound to fall at some point.
"I was close to getting over the hurdle and getting things rolling," Woods said of the week. "And unfortunately I made a 7 over at 17 [on Friday]. I missed a few putts that I could have very easily got the momentum going that could have gotten me on a run. I was close.
"I know that the score doesn't really indicate that, but this is one of the golf courses that it will—there's some weird spots here, and it was fun to play but also I was telling [Steve] Sands-y this is probably the most stressful golf course you ever play when there's wind out here. It just, the wind swirls and you have fairways that are tough to hit and then you have the greens that are tough to hit and put it in the right sections. And if you don't, you're going to be standing on your head hitting some shots. Only had a few of those this week, so all in all it was a solid week."
If the wind and the course were stressing him out, he didn't show it off the tee on Sunday. Woods had his best driving day of the week, hitting 12 of 14 fairways, the only time he broke the double-digit mark this week.
"I'm excited the way I drove it. I drove the ball well this week. I drove it not quite as long on the weekend with a little bit cooler temperatures, but I was driving it pretty straight and I was able to shape the golf ball both ways with all three of my woods, which was good to see."
If that continues, specifically if Woods is able to successfully hit a draw with the driver, he has to like his chances at Augusta National, where he's looking to win his fifth green jacket and his first major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open. He feels his game is in good spot with just under one month until the Masters.
"It's right on track," he said of the overall state of his game as it relates to Augusta. I feel like I'm able to start -- I'm able to shape the golf ball both ways, which I'm going to need there. Just need a few more putts go in, but that's about it."
First, Woods will play in the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club, where he's playing the event's semi-new, World Cup-like format for the first time. He's looking forward to having three guaranteed matches rather than possibly only one like it used to be, though, as a three-time winner in that old format, he rarely had to worry about an early exit.
"I'm hoping that I can play all the matches," Woods said. "That would be great, I'm guaranteed to play three instead of when I played it was only one guaranteed, so that's kind of nice knowing that I'll be able to get at least three good rounds in, possibly more if I play well."