June 15, 2018 / 5:38 PM / 5 months ago

Woods says game is fine as major drought stretches to a decade

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (Reuters) - Tiger Woods missed the halfway cut at the U.S. Open on Friday the day before the 10th anniversary of his last major title success in the latest sign that his comeback from major back surgery has stalled.

Jun 15, 2018; Southampton, NY, USA; Tiger Woods tees off the second hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills GC - Shinnecock Hills Golf C. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Woods expressed no doubt when asked whether he still had another major victory in him, but it was a fair question for a 42-year-old who for all his greatness has lost his putting touch and has no guarantee of ever finding it.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Have you seen the way I’ve been swinging?”

He did indeed not play badly in a respectable two-over-par 72 on Friday, but the damage had been done with an opening 78 that included a demoralising triple-bogey at the first hole.

“I’m not very happy the way I played and the way I putted. I’m 10 over par,” he said after missing the cut by 10 strokes at Shinnecock Hills.

Woods had a goal of shooting 67 or 68 on Friday and working gradually back into the tournament, and that did not look particularly unrealistic after he birdied his first hole, the par-four 10th.

But he later hit a speed bump at the same hole that shook him on Thursday, the par-four first, where he ran up a double-bogey that at least was better than his triple from the previous day.

Woods has won 14 major championships, and 79 PGA Tour events, but has not lifted a trophy in any tournament since 2013.

The former world number one is playing a full schedule this year after a 2017 spinal fusion fixed a debilitating back problem that largely curtailed his schedule in the previous four seasons.

Before this week he had missed the cut only once in nine events in 2018.

His comeback seemed to be gathering a full head of steam when he finished one stroke behind winner Paul Casey at the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship in March.

He subsequently contended again deep into the final round the following week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, before yanking his drive out-of-bounds at the 16th hole.

He has not been quite the same since, as one aspect or another of his game has let him down in the ensuing starts, more often than not his putting.

“I’m hitting it just fine,” he said on Friday.

“I just haven’t putted well. If I would have putted like I did at the beginning of the year with this ball striking, that would be ideal. Unfortunately, I just haven’t done that.”

Next up for Woods after a week off is the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans National that he hosts in suburban Washington, before heading to Scotland for the British Open at Carnoustie.

Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond/Ian Chadband/Ken Ferris

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