By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Tiger Woods swung driver on the seventh hole and it went right down the middle.
His driver, not the golf ball.
This wasn’t a fit of disgust Sunday at The Players Championship, rather one of those times where Woods feels trapped between the old swing he is trying to forget and the new one he is trying to build. He let the club go after impact, and it traveled some 15 feet. The golf ball went 275 yards, offline and near the face of a bunker.
Standing next to the water cooler, Woods said loud enough for those around him to hear, “Old swing, new release pattern.”
His earlier birdie was erased by a bogey on that hole, just as three straight birdies to start the back nine were erased by a triple bogey _ the third time this week he had to put a 7 on his scorecard. It added to an even-par 72 and his worst position in 17 trips to The Players Championship.
“It was a mixed bag pretty much all week,” Woods said. “A lot of really, really good stuff out there, some mediocre and some bad. What did I have? Three 7s on the week. That’s not very good.”
He wound up at 3-over 291 and tied for 69th, Only the top 60 receive ranking points, meaning Woods will slide even more from No. 125.
His 72-hole score was not his highest at the TPC Sawgrass. He tied for 53th at 5-over 293 in 2005, the year he won the Masters and the British Open at St. Andrews and returned to No. 1 in the world. That’s an example of how the Stadium Course can drag anyone down if the game is not firing.
Even so, Woods is still sputtering, though at least moving forward.
He took off two months before the Masters because his game and scores _ such as an 82 in Phoenix _ were not up to standard. He tied for 17th at Augusta National. He had to make a 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole Friday just to make the cut.
But there was no sense of panic. Woods said he felt much more comfortable with his swing than he did at the Masters.
“We have added a couple little pieces to it,” he said. “I reverted back a couple times out there over the course of the week, but also I did some really good stuff out there. It’s going to pay dividends in the end.”
Is the end in sight?
“Absolutely,” Woods said when asked if he could see himself winning or contending this year.
One upside is his health. This was the first time since the end of 2013 that Woods completed 72 holes in consecutive events.
He is taking the next three weeks off. Woods has a charity event for his foundation this week in Las Vegas, followed by two weeks off. Starting with the Memorial he will play every other week through the PGA Championship.
“We’re progressing,” Woods said. “It’s a matter of putting the pieces together first. I mean, look where it was at on the West Coast and to where I’m at now. So let’s just keep progressing, keep putting the pieces together, keep chipping away at it. And I’m very pleased at the way we’re just chipping away at it. We had some glaring weaknesses at the beginning of the year. Those are now gone. And now we can start cleaning up some other stuff, too.”
That might start with his iron play.
His chipping, which was sensational at the Masters compared with where it was at Phoenix and San Diego, was solid all week. He had three chips to advance the ball 60 feet onto the green at No. 9 on Saturday, though that was more of a product of the difficult grass. Phil Mickelson had a similar fate on the sixth hole Friday.
Woods rarely gave himself close looks at birdies when he had the opportunity, and he no longer makes enough putts to atone for that.
“I had a lot of clubs where I was 8-iron on down and I didn’t stiff them,” Woods said. “That’s something I’ve got do a little bit better on.”