Tiger Woods 'encouraged' despite worst 72-hole major finish at Open Championship

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Big picture, Tiger Woods says he’s still encouraged by his return to competition even after posting his worst 72-hole finish in a major.

Playing only his sixth competitive round since undergoing March 31 back surgery, Woods shot 3-over 75 Sunday at the Open Championship. After exiting early at the Quicken Loans National last month, Woods made the cut on the number here at Royal Liverpool. He shot 73-75 on the weekend to finish 69th among the 72 players who played all four rounds.

“I got more game time under my belt,” he said afterward. “Obviously, there’s a lot of things I need to work on, but I haven’t been able to work on a lot. I was down for three months, so I’m just now starting to come back.”

When Woods returned at Congressional, it was described by many as a “rehab assignment” – that his health, not his score, was the biggest takeaway.

Woods came away from that start feeling “encouraged” by his progress, especially since he had targeted the Open as his initial return.

When asked if he considered these first few starts as a rehab assignment, Woods conceded: “A little bit. I wanted to see where my game was at when I played at Congressional. The fact that I was able to hit the ball that hard, that was encouraging. I was able to recover every day. As I said, I’m still building, I’m still working on my game, and I’m still getting stronger and faster.”

After an auspicious opening 69 at Hoylake, Woods backed up with three consecutive over-par scores. Big numbers were his undoing: He made three double bogeys and two triples.

For the week, Woods averaged 292 yards off the tee, hit 66 percent (37 of 56) of the fairways while using mostly irons and fairway woods, and hit 48 greens. Though he three-putted only once, he required 119 putts.

“I was certainly expecting (rust), but I know how to play links golf, I know how to grind it out on these golf courses and hitting the shots I thought I could hit around here,” he said. “I did it the first day; after a bad start I got it back. But I just made too many mistakes.”

Woods has already committed to play in the July 31-Aug. 3 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he is an eight-time winner and the defending champion.

If he doesn’t add an event to his schedule, he will have two more regular-season starts (Bridgestone, PGA) to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs. Woods likely has to average at least a top-3 finish in that span to make the postseason.

- Ryan Lavner, Golf Channel

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