Tiger Woods happy with progress despite challenge going up in smoke at 16th

Tiger Woods pushed his drive right Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Bay Hill’s par-5 16th, hardly the end of the world given he made birdie each day.

Tiger Woods happy with progress despite challenge going up in smoke at 16th

What was a surprise — a shock, even — was that Woods, chasing down the leaders, rifled his drive at No 16 hard left in Sunday’s final round.

There and then, the electrified challenge died.

Out in 34, he was 9 under and five behind Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau.

Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose were also ahead of him. Nothing suggested a comeback was in order — not with so many approaches on the par 4s leaving him birdie tries of more than 30 feet.

Nothing, that is, besides the reminder that this is the guy to whom the impossible was possible and the improbable probable, and so when he stuffed it to 8 feet at 10, then got it up-and-down from a back bunker at 12, then jammed his approach to 13 feet at the 13th, he had a trio of birdies and was 12 under.

“I was caught. I didn’t decide what I was going to do (on the 16th tee),” Woods said. “If I hit driver, I’ve got to fit it, I’ve got to cut it in there.”

He then considered just blasting it hard and far, “bomb it over the top,” but in the end it’s “on me for not committing”.

He bailed out, pulled it wide left and on a day when the field average was 4.403, Woods made one of just six bogeys at 16.

Woods digested the fact he had closed with a 3-under 69, that 11 of his last 12 rounds have been at par or better, that he’s been in the 60s five of his last seven rounds and, best of all, “if you (had told) me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments, I would have taken that in a heart beat.

“The fans gave me all the adrenaline in the world,” he said, “and to be in contention. If I can play with no pain I can feel like I can make golf swings; each tournament has gotten a little crisper.”

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