ATLANTA, GEORGIA | For all the understandable talk about Tiger Woods playing his way into the 30-man field at the Tour Championship this week at East Lake Golf Club, it almost overshadows the fact it’s only the third time since 2009 that Woods has teed it up in the season-ending event.
He’s the only two-time FedEx Cup champion, but Woods has been absent more than present at the final event of the season since he and Phil Mickelson posed for photographs together nine years ago after Tiger won the cup and Mickelson won the Tour Championship.
Add being in the field this week as one more check mark on Woods’ 2018 list of goals.
“Put it this way – I’ve exceeded most of them,” Woods said Wednesday when asked about his goals for a season that began with great uncertainty.
“The season itself has been amazing.”
All it’s lacking is a victory and the Tour Championship offers a realistic opportunity for Woods to win for the first time since 2013 if only because there are only 29 other players in the field. They’re the best players but East Lake is a place where pars come in handy and birdies don’t have to be made in bunches.
Woods leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained approaching the green, which more than offsets his ranking of 108th in strokes gained off the tee. He’s seventh in strokes gained tee to green, but his putting has been inconsistent.
“It’s been I haven’t driven it well, I haven’t hit my irons well, I haven’t chipped well, I haven’t putted well. Just pick one of those things, and it happens to be that particular week,” Woods said.
“I seem to have gotten most of those things going well, but there’s always something missing.”
After the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, Woods will shut down his competitive schedule. He’s booked for his televised match with Phil Mickelson on Thanksgiving weekend and the Hero World Challenge he hosts in early December. It’s conceivable he will add a tournament during the fall portion of the Tour schedule, but he has not given any indication of that to this point.
He intends to focus on further strengthening his back and being prepared for a busy 2019. Asked if he’s reached the point where he no longer thinks about his back, Woods said he can’t escape the reality of his spinal fusion.
“There are certain shots I still think about it. More than anything, I just feel it. I’ll never be as flexible as I used to be. I can’t. It’s not moving. And so there are things that I’m limited by,” Woods said.
“I get reminded every day when I wake up in the morning that this is not what it used to be. But it’s a hell of a lot better than it’s been the last few years.”