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.
Woods has won the event eight times and made qualifying one of his goals for the season as the tournament moves from Firestone Country Club in Akron to Memphis next year.
“I’m excited to be back,” Woods told a pre-tournament press conference. “It certainly wasn’t exactly easy to get back into this event, I’ve had to play well this year. I’ve always been a fan of this golf course and remember playing here before it was even a World Golf Championship.
“It’s always been one of my favourite courses on the entire tour and it’s unfortunate it is leaving. I know it has to move and go forward but one of the reasons I tried so hard to get into this event is because it does mean something special to me.
“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.”