PGA Tour-watchers might have heard Tiger Woods say he’s “really close” so many times that it no longer registers.
But on Saturday after the third round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, that pronouncement came instead from regular Woods’ practice-round partner Bubba Watson.
A member of Woods’ threesome, Watson was undeterred by Woods’ 2-over-par 72 that left him at 1 over par and tied for 38th going into today’s final round at Firestone Country Club.
After an 11-week injury layoff, Woods is playing his first tournament on the South Course, where he has won seven times. But he insists he’s not looking at the event as a tune-up for next week’s PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
“He’s really close,” Watson said of Woods. “He could easily win by a bunch next week or shoot a low number tomorrow and move way up.
“He talked about it yesterday in his interview, that he didn’t make putts. What he means are the momentum putts. When you’re out there six feet for birdie and you lip it out, your wind goes out for a second and you don’t have the momentum after hitting a great shot. His putting was off today, obviously.”
Woods needed 33 putts in a four-bogey, two-birdie round, up from 27 on Thursday and 29 on Friday. His longest putt made was a 20-footer for birdie on No. 9. Woods said he’s been practicing on Bermuda greens at home and also when he played in Atlanta on Monday and is not used to Firestone’s bent grass.
“I didn’t putt well again today, two horseshoes, three-putted 18, and then obviously made a bogey with a sand wedge there on 16, that’s 4 shots I just threw away right there,” Woods said.
Most encouraging for Woods was that he didn’t hit a fairway on the front nine (going 0-for-7), but rebounded to hit 4-of-7 on the back nine. For the week, he’s found the fairway on 17 out of 42 holes.
“I didn’t hit the ball well starting off, and I fixed it,” Woods said. “I really hit it good coming home, started hitting the ball the right flight, the right trajectory, every tee shot was flush, everything was back to where it was at the beginning of the week.
“I’m still struggling a little bit with my setup and alignments off of tee shots because I don’t curve the ball as much anymore. It’s a nice change, but it’s still a change.”
Woods also proclaimed his iron game back, saying “just about every iron shot was on my number, which was great.”
Watson didn’t sound like he was making excuses for his friend, who hadn’t played a full 18 holes when he arrived at Firestone since April 10 at the Masters Tournament. This is just Woods’ seventh tournament of the year.
“You’ve got to remember he’s a little rusty and he hasn’t played,” Watson said. “He has a new swing. Everything is coming together and he’s learning. He’s getting to see it under pressure. He’ll tweak it a little bit and probably be really ready next week.”