Tiger Woods admits letting a 15th major title slip from his grasp will “sting for a while” after readjusting his expectations on his latest comeback from injury.
After undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April last year, Woods was unsure that he would ever be able to play golf again, let alone to the sort of level which made him the most successful player of his generation.
But the 42-year-old has recorded four top-10 finishes in 12 events this season and had several chances to win, most recently in the Open Championship at Carnoustie where he led by a shot with eight holes to play.
Woods began the final round four shots off the pace but as the leaders stumbled in the toughest conditions of the week, a front nine of 34 was enough to take the 14-time major winner into the lead.
However, Woods then ran up a double bogey on the 11th and dropped another shot on the 12th and eventually finished three shots behind playing partner Francesco Molinari.
“I said it was going to sting for a while and it certainly does because I had a great chance at it,” Woods, whose last major title came in the 2008 US Open, said.
“I played myself into a great position, I actually ended up leading outright for just a little bit.
“I was kind of laughing because most of the media at the time were sceptical of my game plan and it played myself right into the lead.
"That part I was very positive about but I made a couple of mistakes there at 11 and 12 that ended up costing me the chance of winning the tournament.
“I went from just hoping to be able to play the Tour to know that I feel like I can, I certainly can win again.
I’ve had an opportunity to win a couple of times this year; my game’s gotten better and good enough where I feel like I can win again out here on Tour.
A tie for sixth place was at least enough to give Woods the consolation of qualifying for this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by virtue of scraping into the world’s top 50 by a fraction of a world ranking point.
“I was ranked pretty far [down] in the world there, last December I was about 1,200 in the world and within a year to get down to 50 I think is a pretty good accomplishment.”
Elsewhere Ernie Els admits he will enjoy being the “headline act” once more as he contests the Fiji International at Natadola Bay Golf Club.
Els has won 28 times on the European Tour, but his last victory came in Germany in 2013, a year after the South African claimed a fourth major title in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham.
The former world number one has since slumped to 797th in the rankings and has missed the cut in 12 of 17 events in 2018.
“I haven’t been the headline act for a while so it’s kind of a bit different for me than the last couple of years,” said Els.
Meanwhile high points totals rather than low scores will be the order of the day in the Barracuda Championship at Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno.
The Barracuda Championship - formerly known as the Reno-Tahoe Open - uses a Modified Stableford format, which allocates points based on the number of strokes taken at each hole.
Eight points are awarded for an albatross, five for an eagle, two for a birdie, zero for a par, minus one for a bogey and minus three for a double bogey or worse.
American Chris Stroud won his first PGA Tour title in his 289th start last year, carding 20 points in the final round thanks to three birdies and an eagle in his last six holes.
Only the top 125 at the conclusion of the Wyndham Championship on August 19 will keep their cards for next season and qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs, with former US Open champion Graeme McDowell (143rd) and Ireland’s Shane Lowry (159th) among those in need of a good performance.
Lowry’s exemption from winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2015 runs out this season and he has yet to record a top-10 finish in 2018, but did show signs of improvement with a tie for 12th in the Canadian Open last week.
The world number 89 will play the first two rounds alongside McDowell and American Billy Hurley, while three-time major winner Pádraig Harrington is alongside Rod Pampling and Hudson Swafford.
Waterford’s Seamus Power is out at midday today.
3pm Jordan Spieth, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)
3.50pm Sergio Garcia (Spa), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa)
6.40pm Matt Kuchar, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
6.50pm Henrik Stenson (Swe), Justin Rose (Eng)
7pm Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson
7.10pm Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari (Ita)
Starting at hole 10
3.10pm Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn)
3.20pm Tiger Woods, Jason Day (Aus)
6.50pm Patrick Reed, Paul Dunne (Irl)