Tiger Woods gets much-needed confidence boost despite shaky scoring

Tiger Woods’s run at the Quicken Loans National fell short, but there’s plenty for him to build on in the weeks to come.

Following Tiger Woods these days is like riding a roller coaster. One minute he’s the runner-up at the Valspar Championship; the next, it looks like he’s forgotten how to putt. The biggest surprise recently, though, is the way Tiger’s confidence seemed to be shaken to its core.

That was the case, at least. After a white-hot weekend at the Quicken Loans National – both on the card and the thermometer – Woods has a little bit of swagger back.

It started with the new putter, of course. Earlier in the week, it felt like he might be reaching for a “quick fix” with The Open just around the corner. Sure, Tiger only put in four rounds with the new TaylorMade mallet, but you can’t argue with the results.

Was everything pretty? No. But Tiger finished net positive in strokes gained putting for just the second time since Bay Hill. At one point, he led the field in total birdies. That’s not something that just happens by accident.

But what about those awful misses? Check out this tweet from Brandel Chamblee on Tiger’s putting stats this week.

Dead stinking last from relatively short distance. Tiger missed a two-footer for birdie on Sunday. That’s ugly stuff, right?

It stings, but there was plenty of good here, too. He ranked seventh in greens in regulationand ninth in putts per GIR. He’s still working to find his game, but he’s closer now than he was at Shinnecock.

Is there such a thing as a moral victory for Tiger Woods these days?

I’m not saying Tiger’s going to run away with The Open, but that’s got to be a huge boost to what was a shaken psyche.

Of course, there’s a flip-side to that coin. His big miss is still pretty brutal, even if his recovery efforts are that much more heroic. And while he started making those longer putts, he won’t make it far blowing relatively easy birdie looks.

The Quicken Loans National was far from a breezy walk in the park. TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm felt more like a trek through the Sahara on Sunday, but Woods took the sweat in stride. He knows that, at 42, things have to slow down, but he’s also got one thing going for him that nobody else does.

He’s still Tiger freakin’ Woods. Older, wiser, and a bit more genial than he was 10 or 15 years ago, sure, but that hasn’t extinguished the competitive fire inside him.

Now, Woods will take the next two weeks to prepare for the Open Championship at Carnoustie. It’s an Open venue steeped in history, not all of it good. It’s the place where, in 1999, Jean Van de Velde blew a three-shot lead – on the 18th hole. It’s where Padraig Harrington came back from six down on Sunday to beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Of course, it’s also where Gary Player won his second Open in 1968. And where Tom Watson first held the Claret Jug in 1975, something he’d do four more times in his legendary career.

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Whether fair or unfair, fans around the world will be watching to see if Tiger Woods can hold that esteemed vessel one more time. With this much-needed boost to his confidence, he may just believe he can.

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