Why Tiger Woods is having such a weird week at Northern Trust

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Why Tiger Woods is having such a weird week at Northern Trust

PGA Tour

Why Tiger Woods is having such a weird week at Northern Trust

PARAMUS, N.J. ­– Tiger Woods raised his hand to acknowledge the fans after sinking an 8-foot birdie putt on 18 early Saturday afternoon, and he raised a few eyebrows in the post-round media scrum when asked what would make for a good final round Sunday.

“I think if I can get to double digits, would be nice,” Woods said. “I think that would be a nice way to end it. Most of these guys are going to go really low, and hopefully I can shoot well, one that will get me into double digits tomorrow and give me some nice momentum going into next week.”

He would have to shoot 7-under-par for just the second time this season in order to get to 10 under for the week at the Northern Trust. Bringing up a number like that shows just how well Woods is hitting the ball and just how bad the putting has been over a highly unusual three days of golf.

He turned in his first bogey-free round in three years Saturday with a 3-under 68 that could have been so much more, on the heels of a 35-putt day in Round 2. He had a legitimate chance to birdie seven of his last eight holes, including a chip that hit the pin at 11, but again the misses racked up and he couldn’t take advantage of an otherwise great day throughout the bag.

“You feel the frustration,” caddie Joe LaCava said. “You can see it mounting. The good news is he’s one of those players who doesn’t let it affect the rest of his game, which is great. But you can see the frustration on his face.”

Everyone at Ridgewood Country Club could see it, beginning with an 8-foot birdie miss at the par-5 third. Overall he missed seven birdie putts from inside 15 feet and lipped out a few. It wasn’t like he looked pissed off the entire day. Just didn’t have any bounce in his step around the greens, walked a little slower to the next tee box, etc.

It’s been reminiscent of a solid ballstriking week at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he couldn’t make anything and finished T-55. The difference is Woods had trouble with his speed at Quail Hollow and that hasn’t really been the case here. He was also coming off a disappointing showing at the Masters that week rather than a lights-out finish and strong putting week at the PGA Championship.

“I’m just not seeing my lines,” Woods said. “It’s just one of those things where I’m struggling seeing the lines. The pace has been okay, not great, but my feel is just a little bit off because whether I’m seeing high lines or low lines, they are just not quite dialed in yet.”

It all explains why he was T-46 early Saturday afternoon with just four bogeys through 54 holes.

Woods has only made seven birdies so far this week after picking up eight in the final round at Bellerive alone.

His lowest number of birdies over four rounds this year is 10, during the equally-cold putting week at Quail Hollow, and he made 23 total in the PGA Championship.

Woods is also on pace for his lowest number of bogeys this season – Every tournament has included at least eight sub-par holes, with eight apiece at the PGA Championship and Players.

His last bogey-free round prior to Saturday came during the final round of the 2015 Greenbrier Classic.

“I always love doing that,” Woods said. “Today is one of those days where, yeah, I could have had a few more (birdies) out there. … As soft as it got you’ve got to try to make birdies and I just didn’t do it.”

The reason he was able to do it is largely thanks to another sweet day with the driver. He’s used that club on 20 tee boxes the past two days and hit the fairway from 16 of them, an 80 percent clip.

“Even I can do the math on that one,” LaCava said.

Let’s not forget this is the club many have suggested Woods snap in half and abandon altogether.

He’s has been hard at work on the driver over countless hours back home in Jupiter, Fla., and he used it 12 times during Wednesday’s pro-am to get comfortable with a different shaft that he’s used in the past. The loft is also a little different and he’s favored a high draw off the tee all week.

“I’ve gone back to a shaft I know and I’ve won numerous tournaments with, so it’s a feel that I know,” Woods said. “This entire year has been trying to hit a moving target, just because my swing has changed, my body has changed. It’s morphed through the entire year. I’m at a place now where I think that shaft works again.”

Basically Woods has gained a ton of confidence with his driver while losing confidence with his putter this week. He’s always said it’s easier to get it back with the putter, as we saw after the Wells Fargo.

After four rough days in Charlotte, the slump continued during the first two rounds of the Players Championship. But his putts looked crisper and closer. They just weren’t falling. Then he went out and drained eight birdie putts in Round 3 and shot 65-69 over the weekend at TPC Sawgrass.

It’s too late for a similar run in New Jersey, but the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston is just six days away and the rest of Woods’ game looks as good as it did in St. Louis.

Now, about that 7-under 64 tomorrow …

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