PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods did not have the results he wanted at the Players Championship, but he still left the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course where he is headed, specifically as it relates to the Masters next month
"It's right on track, "Woods said after shooting his first round of the tournament in the 60s, and 3-under-par 69." I feel like I'm able to shape the ball both ways, which I'm going to need [at Augusta National] Just need a few more putts to go in, but that's about it. "
Even on the greens, Woods saw some improvement at the Players, where he had no 3-putts – after consecutive tournaments with six each – and took just 26 putts on Sunday
But he was also unusually average with his iron play, ranking well in the field in strokes gained, approaching the green and tee to the green after a surprisingly good driving week that saw him ranked fourth in that category.
Woods finished at 282, 6 under par and in tie for 31st
"I'm excited the way I drove it," he said. "I drove the ball well this week. I drove it not so long over the weekend with a bit of cooler temperatures, but I was driving it pretty straight, and I was able to shape the golf ball both ways with all three of my woods, which was good to see. "
Woods birdied three of his first seven holes to shoot 33 on the front side, then stalled on the back, with a single birdie and his only bogey at the 14th. He saved the par at the 16th after his second shot found the water and managed to get up and down by chipping from the fringe on the par-3 17th – where he left himself almost 60 feet from the hole
Generally, it was a decent tournament for Woods, who was tied for 11th here last year but was coming out of a missed tournament a week ago because of a neck strain
"I needed that," Woods said of the time off. "I needed to get that organized, and as I was telling you guys earlier in the week, if my back gets tight, it's going to go up the chain so I got to start at ground zero and get my lower back moving properly and "
Although Woods has missed a tournament he has won eight times, the week was probably the best, he said.
" It was the right decision to make considering that I have April right around the corner, "he said. "Wanted to make sure I get that organized in a week where you can hit a few shots where you are standing on your head having to hit some weird shots, and the way I was feeling in Mexico, that would have been a tall order for me. "
Still, the tie for the 31st was Woods' worst in four tournaments this year after a tie for the 20th at the Farmers Insurance Open, a tie for 15th at the Genesis Open and a tie for 10th at WGC-Mexico Championship. And the closest he had done was 8 strokes back of the winner J.B. Holmes at Riviera
This was Woods' last stroke-play event before the Masters, as his next start will be in two weeks at the WGC-Dell Match Play – a tournament he has won three times but one he has not played since 2013. He also has not competed in Austin Country Club, where he has been played since 2016.