Tiger Woods is close ... but he's not there yet

It's easy to get excited when Tiger Woods is playing the way he did on Sunday afternoon. Firing at flagsticks. Rolling in lengthy putts. Carding seven birdies in a single round. It's the type of stuff we expect when he dons the red shirt. But even with a strong finish, he still couldn't get into the hunt at Doral, finishing in the top 10 for the first time since last year's U.S. Open.

Woods' week was a mixture of good, bad and ugly. Most of the good came on Sunday, but the other three rounds included two 100-yard duckhooks off the tee, and countless misreads on the green. His putting was so bad, in fact, that Woods decided to switch from his usual putter style to a mallet model. That's the sign of a man desperate for some good luck.

While he's swapped putters before, he's never outright changed models in the middle of a tournament. The putter clearly gave him some good vibes on the weekend, but as we all know, anybody can putt well with a new model for a couple of rounds. If he can putt that way for four rounds I think people will start to take him seriously. Like most of his rounds this year, Woods definitely took some steps in the right direction, but every time it looked like he was piecing it together, he hit a couple of shots or had a bad stretch of holes that had everyone tapping the brakes.

Everyone seems to be cautiously optimistic ... except Tiger himself. After the final round, he was asked if he was on track for the Masters. "Oh, yeah," he said. He followed that up by smiling and saying "Mm-hmm" when asked if he liked his chances at Augusta National. Tiger seems to think he's ready for the first major of the year, but based on the inconsistency in his game, it's hard to agree with him.

The putter change and the errant shots continue to paint the picture of a guy that's close but still can't put it together for four rounds. The last time he was able to get close to putting it together for an entire tournament was at the Target World Challenge, and he still managed to blow a four-shot lead and lose on the final hole to Graeme McDowell.

I don't want to bash on Woods, because I think he's getting closer, but I just don't see the progress he's talking about. Sure, he's hitting the ball better and scoring well on occasion, but everyone was tearing up the Blue Monster this week. We need to see him play like he did on Sunday for four rounds, or, at the very least, play consistently for an entire tournament.

He's had a lot of success at Bay Hill, so let's see him put his swing to the test in a couple weeks. Until then, I'll continue to believe Woods is close ... but he's not there yet.

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