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Tiger Goes Low on 'Home' Course


For the first time in a couple of years, Tiger Woods looked like his old self Sunday.

In the final round of the Honda Classic, the red-shirt-clad Woods, after enduring injuries, personal upheavals and major swing changes since his last full-field victory on the PGA Tour - the 2009 U.S. Open, evoked recollections of Sunday-charges-past, firing an 8-under 62 to soar up the leaderboard and put pressure on tournament pacesetter, Rory McIlroy.

Though he didn't quite catch up to McIlory, who closed with a 69 to win by two, Woods showed that he still has plenty of game, carding two birdies and an eagle on each the front and back nines of the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to finish tied for second with Tom Gillis.

Woods recently moved to nearby Jupiter Island, so the Honda Classic was played near his new hometown. And when he got rolling Sunday the local fans uproariously responded, chanting "Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!"

The other players were quite aware of what was going on. "I heard the huge roar on 18 when Tiger made eagle," McIlroy said later. "I knew it wasn't a birdie roar."

"It was just roars going up all over the course," added Graeme McDowell. "Bombs going off all over."

After signing his scorecard, Woods sat down with reporters and talked about what clicked for him Sunday. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: Tiger Woods joining us, Tiger, what a day, 8 under par 62, incredible round, if we can just get your comments.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, this was a good day. I hit it well. I really didn't miss many shots today. It was a good day, and I hit a lot of good putts that went in, also some that just skirted the edge. It could have really been something special today if a few putts would have gone in.

Q. What clicked today? Obviously you're trying to get to this point, and we have these rounds where sometimes it's not all together. Did it feel different than the others?

TIGER WOODS: On Friday, I said that I had hit the ball the worst I had hit it, and it really my bad shots aren't as bad as they used to be. And I was able to get it around and made a few putts here and there. But I felt today, starting out when the wind was really howling, I just kept telling myself, I played great in Australia and they are the same kind of conditions. There's no reason why I can't do it today. Took some pretty good comfort in that. It was howling early; the guys in front of us got the worst conditions. You could see some of the scores, the guys that teed off early, just got kicked in the teeth.

But then when we came back, the wind was a totally different direction out of the northwest, and it was still whipping pretty good. And by the time we made the turn, it wasn't blowing as hard. It warmed up a little bit and wasn't blowing as hard. I knew I thought starting out the day that 6 under was, for the day, and 8 under for the tournament, was going to be the number to shoot to at least put myself where I had a chance. But that changed quite a bit when the wind died down.

Q. What kind of confidence does a score like this give you going forward?

TIGER WOODS: It feels good, because, you know, I felt like I was close; I've been close to shooting this score, or scores like this. And it was just a matter of time before things all fell into place, and I don't know, maybe I just needed the wind to blow or something like that today to feel comfortable with it. But I felt very comfortable when the wind was howling out there, because of my performance in Australia, and it just felt good today.

Q. And also on the shot on 18, I was in here watching and couldn't tell, what kind of shape was it? And whatever direction it moved, how much did it move?

TIGER WOODS: There's a tunnel that we walk off and it was on the left edge of the green, probably about three steps into the green. And I was just aiming it in, and off that downhill lie, I knew it was going to cut, and for some reason, I kept thinking, this is very similar to what I had at Glen Abbey. But at Glen Abbey, I wasn't firing at the flag, either. I was firing at Grant Waite's ball and was just going to move it to the right, and this was the same thing: Aim at the tunnel, I'm going to lean the shaft to try to take some loft off of it and it's going to start a little further right, but just rip it. And I absolutely just killed this 5 iron.

Q. You could see your game coming around, but the last couple of Sunday finishes were not what you wanted. What did you take out of those Sunday failures that maybe helped you today?

TIGER WOODS: Nothing. Today I was just going to go out there and try to post 6 under for the day, and when I turned at 4, I had to change that game plan because the wind was not blowing as hard, and I knew the guys were not going to back up as much. If we had the same wind those guys had going out early, the first few groups, I think the scores wouldn't have been as good as they were. I don't think I could have shot what I shot, I don't think Westy could have shot what he shot. It was just blowing too hard and gusting too much. But it was consistent today in the strength, but it was just angling a little bit different. So it was a good round.

Q. You've had some flashes of rounds similar to this but you have not really had the consistency for all four rounds. What do you feel like you need to do to kind of get to that point? Is it the reps? Is it things with your swing or your putting? What exactly is it that you kind of need for that consistency for all four rounds?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think I just need the time. I switched coaches and I got hurt for most of last year, and I started putting the pieces together. I've been - overall, my finishes have been pretty good since Australia on. And it was just a matter of keep building, keep sticking with it, the process is coming, I'm hitting more solid shots, I'm making more putts, my speed is getting back. It's just everything is coming, and I just need to keep progressing, just keep sticking with it, and it's going to turn. Today was one of those days where I got a lot out of the round. Like for instance, I got a couple good breaks, I thought I lost a little bit on the wind on 9, ended up in the first cut. I tattooed it down 18, it's 330 over the bunker and I hit it, what, 340 or something like that, and ended up being where I could play it. I thought it might be in the rough where I couldn't play it and have to lay up, but ended up in a spot where I could play it.

Q. First of all, I can't really remember having seen a lot of golfers with their swing look as effortless; is that a fair assessment?

TIGER WOODS: I just have to stick with the process, and it's coming. Each tournament, it's getting better. I'm hitting more good shots, more quality misses. They are not what they used to be. Each tournament I've progressed, I've gotten better. And it's just a matter of time before I put it all together for an entire tournament.

Q. Along the same lines, are you able to move it better right to left, left to right, not just hitting it solidly, but more control of moving it around?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I had to really I had to alter my distances. I think that's been the biggest challenge for me is trusting the fact that I'm hitting the golf ball further. I'm not curving the ball as much as I used to, not as much shape, not as much deflection. The ball is going straighter, longer. My misses just don't curve as much. So all of my numbers have changed, and when I get into situations where I've got to hit shots where there's shelves and things like that, I know what club I used to hit; I know how hard I need to hit it, but it's then sailing over the green. So I just have to - we talked to Joey the last couple of weeks, and I've just got to make a concerted effort to change this and make sure that I know my new numbers, and it's starting to come around.

Q. But you can move it if you want?

TIGER WOODS: I can move it, yeah. But my normal shots, if I just hit it, they don't move as much.

Q. After you finished, did you go somewhere to watch on television? What did you think of Rory's saves coming home and can you say something about him being No. 1 at such a young age?

TIGER WOODS: I watched golf and the Laker game. We had the volume turned down on the golf and up on the Laker game (laughter). Lakers are up 14 last time I came in, so we are doing all right. That's one good thing about today (smiling brightly). I only saw Rory on 15 on in. I mean, he had a pretty simple bunker shot there on 15 and pretty simple one on 17. So those are two good saves. And for him being No. 1, it's a testament to how consistent he's been. You can't get to No. 1 in the world unless you're consistent, and he's won a few times here and there but he's been very, very consistent. That's what you have to do.

Q. Would you consider yourself a better wind player now since the swing change given the last couple times -

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely. Absolutely, yeah.

Q. And what can you say specifically makes you so, what is it about it?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's the way I'm compressing the golf ball, and it just doesn't maneuver as much. It goes much straighter, and for a longer period of time before it either falls left to right or right to left. That was the whole idea of making the changes with Sean is to get to this point, and if you look at the guys he works with, they are all really good ball strikers, from (Justin Rose) to Hunter (Mahan) to (Stephen Ames), and I think I'm all right, too.

Q. You don't seem like you've dwelled much in your career on the close calls, but how do you not look back at, if I had done this on Friday, or look at a shot here or there or a putt here or there that might have put you in a playoff or even won?

TIGER WOODS: You know, I think we all do that. We have to do that for - for me, I do that to begin with to understand why I did not win or why I did win. You have to look at both the negative and the positives of each and every week. You've got to be truthful with yourself and sometimes it's very difficult to say I made X number of mistakes. Other weeks, I didn't make hardly any but I made a few here and there, and I was able to get a win. You have to look at both. Yeah, in the close calls, this week, I missed a few opportunities here and there, and I'll look at, and I'm sure I'll find a lot more to analyze.

Q. Is there anything that stands out right now, maybe the Friday round or the putting round Thursday?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, that's - certainly if I would have putted well, if I would have made a couple easy up and ins; these are all things that we do every week (chuckling). But I'm thrilled at the fact that each and every week, my game's gotten better. Each tournament, it's gotten better, and that's the whole idea heading into April.

Q. There seemed to be a sense, and this is probably mostly an American perspective, when Lee (Westwood) and Luke (Donald) went to No. 1, that there was some questions about whether they really were No. 1. Do you think there will be more acceptance of Rory, and if so, why?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think it's pretty evident. Of the three names you've mentioned, he's got a major championship. From what I've heard, a lot of people are, how can you be No. 1 without ever winning a major. Being consistent. That's just the way the points are deemed. That's just how they are done. That's how Westy got there, he was consistent, day in and day out. I think Rory has had, what, one finish out of the top 10 I think it was in the last ten starts or something like that. So that's pretty impressive playing. That's what you have to do. You're not going to win every time you tee it up, but you can be consistent, you can be close and in the hunt and that's what he's done.

MODERATOR: Great show out there thanks for coming by.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.