Tiger Woods had a smile back on his face on Sunday after securing his first top-10 finish in a PGA Tour event since June and then vowed he will be in contention at next month’s U.S Masters.
Woods endured some tough moments on the Blue Monster course this week but raced up the leaderboard by mixing seven birdies and one bogey for a six-under-par 66 that equalled the day’s lowest score.
He ended in a tie for 10th place, marking his best PGA Tour finish since the U.S Open at Pebble Beach, where he ended in a tie for fourth.
The 14-times major winner, who is reworking his swing, had struggled with the driver and putter this week but both those elements of his game looked sharp during the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Asked if he was on track for the U.S. Masters, which starts April 7, Woods replied: “Oh, yeah.” When pushed on whether he liked his chances at Augusta, he grinned and said “Mmm-hmmm.”
Woods’s preparation consists of a private mini tournament at his Isleworth club near Orlando on Monday and Tuesday before playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida, the following week.
Then he will focus purely on Augusta, where he has won four times but not since 2005.
The former world number one said he felt all his hard work on the range started to fall into place on Sunday.
“Today I hit a lot of good golf shots and when I did mishit one, I knew what the fix was right away, boom and I got back on my run of hitting good shots again,” he told reporters.
“It feels overall, really good. My trajectory is becoming better. The shapes of my shots are getting tighter. The driver is still not quite there. I’m not quite shaping the golf ball like I want to yet.
“But I’m hitting it flush again, which is good and so it is just a matter of time before that comes around.” Woods may have suffered an embarrassing moment on Friday when he drove his tee shot a mere 122 yards, but he avoided any major mishaps on Sunday. “It’s good to have some of the mistakes I have made to have those things come out and become very apparent, which is good, so I can go back and work on them and rectify them and they are becoming less and less,” said Woods. “It’s definitely getting better, there’s no doubt. I’m putting the pieces together. Everything is kind of shaping up and heading in the right direction and peaking at the right time.” Bay Hill is the next test for Woods and it is one that is well suited for him -- he won six times between 2000 and 2009 and enjoys the quick greens.
If he could end his barren spell, dating back to his last win at the Australian Masters in December, 2009, then the quiet confidence might turn into the old swagger.