Tiger Woods closed out a disappointing week at the 2020 PGA Championship in San Francisco with an early-morning 67 on Sunday that left him 1 under on the week. His 279 score over the course of four days at TPC Harding Park won’t put him in contention and likely won’t be enough to finish even in the top 40, but there were signs of life on Sunday after two consecutive days of mediocrity from the four-time PGA Championship winner.
While it’s a little easier to freewheel on a Sunday when you’re not even close to the lead, Round 4 was maybe the best Tiger hit the ball all week from tee to green. He made a few putts as well — two birdies of 10+ feet — but mostly he gave himself better looks at scoring with solid driving and an iron game that’s been sharp since he returned at the Memorial Tournament three weeks ago. And unlike Friday and Saturday, he actually capitalized on them.
“I felt like I putted a little bit better today,” Woods told CBS Sports after his round. “The greens weren’t as quick. They definitely weren’t as crusty with the marine layer, and the wind isn’t really pumping and drying it out. The golf course was playing a little bit slower, it was playing long. The iron shots into the greens they were playing true yardages, if not more.”
We’ve talked about a lot of different things when it comes to Woods’ game this week — his short game, his distance, his elite iron play, his record at TPC Harding Park among them — but the one thing I didn’t realize we hadn’t discussed until it was brought up on Sunday is his back. It seemingly always flares up at least once a week during a tournament, but Woods said it was smooth sailing by the Bay.
“It held up pretty good this week, all thing considered with it being as chilly as it is,” he said. “Warm-ups being good, and the body responded pretty well all week. Stayed pretty loose. It will be nice when it is warmer, but for this week, I was very pleased with how I stayed warm. I kept my layers up. I made sure I was always sweating. I’m looking forward to a week off and getting back at it.”
There aren’t any big, sweeping takeaways from a finish for Woods outside the top 40 as we head into the rest of the year. You can’t have off days from tee to green like he did on Saturday and expect to contend. You can’t be sloppy with your short game like he was the middle two days and expect to score. The older he gets, the more difficult it will be to maintain his physical presence at major championships for an entire week. This has been true throughout golf history, and Tiger is not exempt.
Woods will contend at majors in the future because of his mind (that and he still strikes the hell out of it with his irons), but the consistency with which he contends will be more infrequent as the years wear on.
The best sign for Woods as he heads into the remainder of 2020 — and it sounds like he’ll be back for The Northern Trust in Boston from Aug. 20-23 — is that he played a stress-free, pain-free (or at least as pain-free as it’s going to get) four rounds in cold, wet, windy conditions.
It’s not a win on the scoreboard, but it does bode well for whatever the future holds for Big Cat as he eyes the next six majors over the next 11 months and does his best to tighten up a short game that needs some tightening and march on to major championship No. 16.