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Slimmer Tiger still on road to recovery

Photo: Matthew Emmons/Getty Images

Fred Couples, the epitome of casual style, has worn Ashworth for years.

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem saw Tiger Woods for the first time since his season-ending surgery, and reported Sunday that the No. 1-ranked golfer was his usual self, except for being about 10 pounds lighter and walking with a slight limp.

"He lost 12 or 13 pounds after surgery, gained a few back," Finchem said. "He looks kind of thin."

Woods and Finchem were at Congressional Country Club to speak with the members about the club hosting the AT&T National for six years after the 2012 U.S. Open. Results of the vote are not expected until later this month.

And did the commissioner tell Woods how much he missed him?

"No, I said we missed him - the collective enterprise," Finchem said with a grin. "You guys, tournaments, sponsors, the fans in Venezuela who watch us on TV. Everybody misses him."

Finchem said he had no indication when Woods might return, but little doubt how he will return.

"The doctors set a minimum of six months, so that's what I'm assuming," Finchem said. "And he seems fine. He seems his usual self. He was limping a little bit at Congressional, but he said he started his rehab and he was excited about that because he had been bored to death.

In my mind, it's only a question of when he starts coming back. And there's no doubt in my mind he'll be the same Tiger he's been," Finchem added.

APPLYING SPIN: Despite bogeying three of the final four holes to turn a one-shot lead into a withering two-stroke defeat, Phil Mickelson forced a smile and repeatedly said how well he thought he played in his final-round 70 at the Bridgestone.

In his first two statements about his round, he described six "good" shots in the final five holes, and said he hit three "great" shots at No. 14 and played the 16th hole "great."

Asked if he could take any positives out of his late slide, Mickelson said, "I played great, I really played well. I played great today. I felt like I should have shot 63 or 64, had countless birdie opportunities from 6 to 15 feet and then I make three bogeys on the last four holes and turn a 64 into a 70.

"So I feel like I'm playing well, I just need to get that final piece of scoring down."

RYDER CUP UPDATE: Steve Stricker fell out of contention with a 75 in the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational and then closed with a 70 to tie for 43rd - but he actually made up ground in the Ryder Cup race for Americans.

Stricker is still No. 8 in the standings - the top eight are automatic selections - and only 24 points behind Boo Weekley in the rankings, which end next week with the PGA Championship.

There was some jumbling right behind them, although Woody Austin remained in ninth place about 180 points back. That translates to roughly $90,000 in earnings he must make at Oakland Hills.

As for the reshuffling?

Hunter Mahan birdied his last two holes for a 68 to tie for 10th in Akron, moving up one spot to No. 10 in the rankings. D.J. Trahan tied for eighth at Firestone and moved up one spot to No. 11. Rocco Mediate tied for 52nd and fell two positions to No. 12. They are followed by Sean O'Hair and Zach Johnson (who switched spots at Nos. 13 and 14) and Brandt Snedeker.

STRAIGHT MAN: Peter Lonard should be able to afford that ticket back across the pond.

The Aussie joked earlier this week that he had to win to afford the airfare to Germany to see a musician friend play a concert.

Lonard followed rounds of 69, 66 and 72 with a closing 66 to finish at 7-under 273 at the Bridgestone, good for a tie for sixth with Darren Clarke. Lonard had tied for fourth a year ago in Akron.

Asked the secret to his recent success, he cracked: "Maybe I hit it straighter than I used to. Maybe I'm smarter. I don't know, it's definitely not smarter."

DATE CHANGE: The 2009 Bridgestone will be a week later on the calendar, Aug. 6-9. It will still precede the PGA Championship, which will be Aug. 13-16 at Hazeltine.

HE'S BAA-AACK: Josh Stuber, the crunchy-cream pie chef who became a golf celebrity for a weekend, is back working at Firestone Country Club.

Stuber was on the loading dock putting pies in a cart during the third round of the 2006 Bridgestone Invitational when Tiger Woods overshot the ninth green. The ball clicked off the cement sidewalk and then caromed all the way up and over the roof of Firestone's clubhouse.

The ball clanged around on the roof before sliding off and nearly hitting Stuber in the head. He thought someone was making fun of him, throwing a ball his way. After looking around, he picked up the ball and stuffed it into his pocket. Then he hopped in a golf cart and left the course, hoping to cash his weekly paycheck.

Back on the course, tour officials, security people, police and almost everyone else started an in-depth search for the ball. A review of a tape taken from a clubhouse security camera showed a man with a white chef's hat picking up a ball. Someone identified that man as Stuber.

By the time he returned to the course, Woods had taken a free drop, made a bogey to complete a 6-under 64 and took a one-shot lead. He won the next day in a playoff.

Woods later signed the ball for Stuber - "To Josh. Nice catch, Tiger Woods."

Stuber later left his job at the course and worked at a Chinese restaurant but recently returned to the cooking staff at Firestone.

Thankfully, no shots came even remotely close to him on Sunday.

DIVOTS: A year after only one person (winner Tiger Woods) finished under par, there were 26 subpar scores. ... The victory was Vijay Singh's 20th since turning 40, extending his own PGA Tour record (Sam Snead is second with 17). ... It was the fourth time that Singh won a tournament the week before a major championship. ... Singh also became the oldest player - by more than 7 years - to win a World Golf Championship event. ... Paul Casey's 65 was the low round of the day.

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