Tiger Woods departs Akron with plenty to work on ahead of 2018 PGA Championship

Aug 5, 2018; Akron, OH, USA; PGA golfer Tiger Woods reacts to making a birdie on the first hole during the final round of the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament at Firestone Country Club - South Course. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods departs Akron with plenty to work on ahead of 2018 PGA Championship

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Tiger Woods departs Akron with plenty to work on ahead of 2018 PGA Championship

AKRON, Ohio – It was not a good week for Tiger Woods at Firestone Country Club. But he left on his own terms.

Had he not made the field thanks to a T-6 finish at the British Open, his lasting memory of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational would have been walking off due to injury after eight holes in the final round in 2014.

The eight-time winner instead went out with an 11-foot birdie putt at 18 Sunday and raised his hat in appreciation. He walked off the green with a big smile on his face, but he never stopped to look back and take it all in.

Next stop, St. Louis.

“Things could have certainly gone better,” Woods said. “But it is what it is and (we’re) on to next week.”

Woods arrived with plenty of optimism. He was short on practice time after a family vacation and didn’t hit as many balls as he normally would the week going into a tournament. But he needed the break after the British Open build-up with the PGA Championship and at least two playoff events on the horizon. He had plenty to feel good about.

“My game’s gotten better and good enough where I feel like I can win again out here on Tour,” Woods said.

His last go-round in Akron was a step back in that regard. Woods never truly looked comfortable for an entire round and shot even-par 280 on the week, including a pair of 3-over 73s on the weekend.

3 days to get back on track

Now he has three days to get back on track, and there’s a lot to work on.

“Everything. Play better,” said caddie Joe LaCava, who was still in good spirits Sunday afternoon. “I think in this particular case, everything can be improved. That’s just a fact. He’d tell you the same thing. Everything needs work right now. But it’s all good.”

This was more concerning than previous starts like a T-55 at Quail Hollow and T-23 at the Memorial Tournament because his ballstriking was mostly spot on those weeks. He just couldn’t make anything and ultimately switched putters ahead of the Quicken Loans National.

Putting wasn’t the problem at Firestone. He wasn’t as sharp with his irons, he didn’t find the fairway as often as he did at Carnoustie and he didn’t have the same prowess with his wedges around the green.

Going into the final round hoping to build momentum for the season’s final major, Woods went the opposite direction. A promising birdie-birdie start that energized the crowd didn’t last. He played the final 16 holes 5 over for another 18 holes to forget ahead of Bellerive.

His final nine holes were tough to watch and included two double bogeys, at the par-4 14th and par-5 16th,  his first since the final-round double at No. 11 that ruined his chances at Carnoustie.

He looked so close then, a break or two away from a 15th career major. He looked poised to give it another run in St. Louis.

Woods never really got a chance to regroup after that, and it showed. But he fought hard to get in, and otherwise would have spent the week practicing back home in Jupiter, Fla. Four rounds in Akron probably made for better PGA Championship prep.

Facing similar circumstances this season, Woods has been able to bounce back strong.

He shot 76 in Round 2 of the Genesis Open to miss the cut and finished T-12 the following week at PGA National. After an ugly missed cut at the U.S. Open, he returned two weeks later and finished T-4 at the Quicken Loans National.

That T-12 at the Honda Classic was really the start of Woods’ whole resurgence. Since then he’s had four top-10 finishes and one unforgettable Sunday at Carnoustie, when he took the solo lead on the back nine at a major championship.

Pretty soon this comeback season will be over and Woods will be able to find some stability with his new swing and equipment.

For now, the wild ride continues. There’s one more major to be played and no time for Woods to look back.

“Got three more days to clean it up,” Woods said. “I’ll be ready come Thursday.” Gwk

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