Tiger Woods has heard it all before. He’s past his prime, he’s too injured, too scared, too mentally broken to ever return to the form that made him a 14-time major champion over an 11-year span.
Yet to hear the 39-year-old Woods tell it, he’s focused more on the long haul than any immediate success. After shooting a 3-under 68 and finishing in a tie for 18th place at 8-under overall in the Quicken Loans National, Woods would tell reporters he’s not necessarily concerned with this season alone.
"I've got years ahead of me, that's how I look at it,'' Woods said. “It's not just this season. I've got years, and if you would have asked me that back when I had my back surgery [on March 31, 2014], I didn't really know.
"That was a rough period in my career and my life. But now I'm on the good side of it.''
Woods may have finally turned that proverbially corner, and as an accomplished student of the game he’s well aware that a number of players have won majors later in their 40s. Jack Nicklaus famously seized the Masters in 1986 at 46 years old, and Woods won’t turn 40 until December.
His run at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club proved to be his best performance in months. He shot 68, 66, 74, and 68, for his best finish since the Masters, where he finished in 17th place. Woods isn’t expecting laurels from fans or the media for such a middling performance, but it’s an encouraging sign from the once dominate player who missed the cut at the British and U.S. Opens.
And with the start of the PGA Championship closing in, Woods said he feels stronger than prior to the British.
“This is much better, much, much, much better to have a round like today and basically yesterday,” Woods said.
“Even though I struggled as bad as I did (Saturday), one thing has been missing, as I’ve been trying to explain to everyone, trying to make an up-and-down here and there, scramble and turn an awful round into a scoring round. The first seven holes (Saturday) I was slapping it all over the place and struggling for par. I had that shot at 8 to turn my whole round around and get it in the right direction. I didn’t do it. But today I did, which was nice. Today I started off well and really hit the ball well. My short game is starting to come back to where it used to be.
“The whole week in general, I felt like I made some big strides.”
Those big strides came not only from Woods’ 20 birdies, but how he overcame early struggles to start Quicken Loans. He would bogey three of his first holes in the first round, but recovered with two birdies and four pars on the final six holes of the front nine, and carried that over with four straight birdies on the back end.
Learning from those early mistakes, Woods only hit one snag in the second round, a bogey on the 14th hole, and racked up six birdies by the end of the day.
The performance didn’t hand Woods enough points to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he can still close out the regular season strong at the Wyndham Championship, and his attitude and confidence are clearly high before the PGAs at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin beginning Aug. 13. Woods faced Whistling Straits, a course known for links similar to the gusty winds at the British, in the 2004 and 2010 PGAs and never finished higher than a tie for 24 th place.
But playing throughout the weekend, and carrying on, seem to be Woods' main goals right now.