Tiger Woods
Positive steps for Woods
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Kevin Currie - Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A 32nd-place finish was an anomaly for Tiger Woods for most of his career. That was where he finished at the Greenbrier Classic, and that was a positive step for the former world No. 1.

Due to his poor play recently, Woods fell outside the top 200 in the world rankings. That meant he added no world rankings points to the event, which was the first time that happened since 1996.

The Woods we saw this past weekend was much better than the one we saw at the Memorial or the U.S. Open. Woods insisted afterward that the turnaround came during the final two rounds at Muirfield Village, where he closed 85-74.

That was the bottoming out point for Woods' latest swing changes. He followed with rounds of 80 and 76 at Chambers Bay and missed the cut by 11 strokes.

At the Greenbrier, Woods's swing was tighter and more in rhythm and his statistics bore that out. He hit over 64 percent of fairways, including 12 of 14 in the final round, and 78 percent of greens in regulation, with a week high of 15 in the final round.

The difference for Woods this past week was a balky putter. He finished 52nd in strokes gained putting, which is not the norm for Woods.

Though his putter failed him this time around, Woods' bogey-free final round was his first without a bogey in 55 rounds, which dates to the 2013 Barclays. His total of 273 was his lowest since his last victory, which was at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Many pundits were openly questioning Woods' latest swing changes after struggling in his previous four rounds before he went to the Greenbrier. For his part, Woods continued to talk about the process.

"I felt like we made a big, giant step at Memorial, even though I shot those numbers, but the pattern was set now, just had to refine it," Woods said. "This week was definitely that, definitely refined it, and ... if I just made a couple putts, this week could have been completely different."

The latest swing changes are starting to click, but they'll have to keep clicking if we are to see Woods more than twice the remainder of this season. He is scheduled to play the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, but that may be it.

Woods stands 191st on the FedExCup points list, so he isn't qualified for the FedExCup playoffs. He stands 256 points behind Luke Donald, who is currently 125th on the points list.

For Woods to close that gap, he would need at least one solo second-place finish in one of the season's two final majors to qualify for the playoffs.

With the strides he made this week, Woods surely feels that is possible. To the outside observer, seeing Woods post a pair of top-20 finishes in those events seems like a more realistic goal. A lowering level of expectations is the norm for Woods these days.

Woods says he doesn't enter tournaments unless he thinks he can win them. With the current state of his game, it would be tough for even his most strident fan to say he can go to St. Andrews (The Open) or Whistling Straits (PGA Championship) and win.

STREB'S UNLUCKY BREAK

Players toss clubs all the time and nothing happens. Robert Streb flipped his putter toward his golf bag walking off the ninth green Sunday like he has done dozens of times before.

Only this time, it broke.

Because it was not damaged in the course of playing a shot, Streb had to play the final nine holes without his putter. He putted with his wedge and it worked like a charm.

Streb carded five birdies over those final nine holes to rally and earn a spot in the playoff at the Greenbrier. Those five birdies were more than he had made in any of his previous three rounds with his putter.

The first two were easy, a three-inch kick-in at 10 and a 4-footer at 11. The most impressive birdie came at No. 13, where he rolled one in from 26 feet out. His final two birdies were from inside 10 feet.

It was that same wedge that he was putting with that let him down on 17. His chip from 58 yards out stopped 23 feet from the hole and he 3-putted for bogey. If not for that bogey, he could have won the tournament in regulation.

Instead, Streb ended in a four-man playoff, where he was allowed to put a new putter in the bag (he had another one in his locker). But it didn't matter as he missed the green on the first extra hole and was eliminated.

Streb's back-nine 32 matched his low nine-hole score for the week.

Imagine what he could have done with his putter!

MINI-TIDBITS

* Danny Lee was overcome by his win at the Greenbrier. Lee is hoping to make the Presidents Cup in his native Korea this October and the victory was a big step in that direction. But he still isn't in the top 10 on the points list, so he would need International team captain Nick Price to select him with one of his two captains picks.

* Kevin Kisner's bad luck continues as he fell to 0-3 in playoffs this season. Prior to falling in the Greenbrier playoff, he also lost in extra sessions at the Heritage and the Players Championship. He missed the green in Sunday's playoff and never putted after chipping on as Lee and David Hearn made birdies. In the other two playoff losses, Kisner had four pars and two birdies.

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