Erratic Woods encouraged by Firestone return

AKRON, Ohio, (Reuters) – A week that began promisingly  for Tiger Woods on his long-awaited PGA Tour return ended in  erratic fashion yesterday when he signed off with a level-par 70  at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

For much of the day, Woods was in disarray as he sprayed tee  shots left and right at Firestone Country Club but he reeled off  three successive birdies from the 15th to give himself a late  lift for next week’s U.S. PGA Championship.

“I had it in spurts this week,” the former world number one  told reporters after finishing well down the leaderboard at  one-over 281. “I hit it really well, and then I’d lose it and  get it back.

“Today was a good example of that. I hit it well starting  out, then completely lost it there and tried to piece it back  together at the end. I found my putting stroke at the end, too,  which was nice.”

Playing his first tournament in three months after being  sidelined by leg injuries, Woods said his biggest problem at  Firestone had been establishing trust in a revamped swing that  was sending the ball straighter than before.

“I’m still struggling with my alignment and trusting the  fact that the ball doesn’t shape as much as it used to,” the  35-year-old American said after recording five birdies, three  bogeys and a double-bogey.

“I don’t cut the ball as much, I don’t draw the ball as  much, the pattern is much tighter.

“It’s weird when I look up the fairway or look at the flags;  I’m used to seeing the ball move a lot more in my lines, so I’m  still fiddling with that.”

Woods, whose world ranking has slipped to 28th, conceded he  needed more competitive play under his belt to shake off rust  but he was in an upbeat mood for the year’s final major.

“Absolutely encouraged,” he said of his first tournament  since he completed just nine holes at the Players Championship  in May.

HUGE GALLERIES   

Asked whether one more tournament would have been desirable  before the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Woods  replied: “It would be nice, but hey, I’ve got three days.

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