AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Tiger Woods has discovered something about his game that he never imagined could be a problem.
He’s hitting it too straight.
In another pedestrian round Saturday that caused him to lose more ground in the Bridgestone Invitational, Woods didn’t hit a fairway until the 11th hole and struggled so much with his putting that one of his associates brought a different putter out to the practice green after a round of 72.
Woods was at 1-over 211, which left him 13 shots behind Adam Scott going into Sunday.
What he noticed at Firestone, however, was the shape of his tee shots. Instead of playing a fade or a draw off the tee, depending on the shape of the flight he wanted, Woods is hitting it straighter. He said the trouble was still aiming right or left.
“Still struggling a little bit with my setup and alignments off of tee shots because I used to curve the ball a lot more,” he said. “I don’t curve the ball as much anymore, and it’s kind of hard to trust when I’m out there in tournament play. And most of my shots are missing right on the edges of fairways, so I’ve just got to get more committed to that.
“I’m hitting the ball straighter,” he said. “It’s a nice change. But it’s still a change.”
That was the scouting report out of Atlanta Athletic Club when Woods played a practice round Monday ahead of next week’s PGA Championship. He was having a hard time picking out the right target, instinctively aiming farther outside the fairway lines because for years he was used to more movement on his shots.
He missed every fairway on the front nine, and some of them weren’t that close. His shot on No. 6 went into the gallery, plunked a fan in the back and bounced into the rough on the other side of the ropes. Brady Klotz, the college kid he struck, was so excited about being hit that he posed with the glove that Woods signed for him.
Woods picked up two birdies to offset some early mistakes, but finished poorly. A sand wedge for his third shot to the par-5 16th went over the green and into a bunker for a bogey, and he three-putted the 18th for a 72.
The putter is the biggest concern, as it has been since he first returned from the calamity in his personal life at the 2010 Masters. Woods went back to his Scotty Cameron, the model that he has used in 13 of his major championships. But after his round, the Nike putter was being delivered to him on the practice green.
Woods played with Bubba Watson, who believes Woods is closer than the scores indicated. Watson was particularly impressed with the final hole, when Woods carved a shot out of the rough and around the trees to get on the green.
“You’ve got to think he’s just rusty,” Watson said. “Like if we have a winter break, we’ve got a three-month winter break, the first tournament you’re a little rusty. But 18 just showed how great he is. He hit some kind of a pitching wedge that sliced over that tree. That just proves he’s close, and he’s coming back and he’s ready.”
About all that Woods can get out of this World Golf Championship now is four rounds, and hopes of a good Sunday to improve on his standing with the FedEx Cup playoffs at the end of the month. Woods is at No. 135, although he has two weeks to get into the top 125 and appears he can at least do that.
“I’ve just got to put together a good round and let it build,” Woods said. “That’s something I haven’t done yet. I’ve only played three rounds. Unfortunately, I’m not there battling with a chance to win, but I can still post a good round tomorrow.”