By Andrew Both
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Tiger Woods was much more forgiving of his runnerup finish at the PGA Championship on Sunday than his close call at last month’s British Open.
Woods huffed and puffed with everything he could muster but in the end could not quite blow down the Brooks Koepka house at Bellerive, coming up two shots short.
However, he dispelled any lingering doubts he was back following last year’s spinal fusion, even if at 42, it is unrealistic to expect him to dominate in the manner that earned him 14 major championships before his 33rd birthday.
Woods in his prime treated second place with contempt but his perspective has changed with time and an ailing body.
He said he could not recall the last time he had felt so good about not winning.
“I was pretty ticked at the British Open,” he said of his performance at Carnoustie, where he finished three strokes behind winner Francesco Molinari.
The Claret Jug was his for the taking when he led midway through the final round before a double-bogey at the 11th and a bogey at the 12th.
On Sunday, however, he could never quite get his nose in front, even after four birdies in six holes around the turn.
“This one I never quite got to the lead,” he said after carding six-under-par 64, equal to the day’s best round.
“It was a course I couldn’t quite sit still and be okay with it. I had to keep making birdies.”
Woods did not directly answer a question as to whether he had any expectations at the start of the year of contending in back-to-back majors.
“I didn’t have a swing at the time, I had no speed, my short game wasn’t quite there yet,” he said.
“But God, I hadn’t played in two years, so it’s been a hell of a process for sure.”
His Sunday charge seemed unlikely after a bad pre-round session on the range, and even after birdies at the second and third holes his swing was not in sync.
He somehow held things together on the front nine with smoke and mirrors, and a hot putter.
He yanked his tee shots at the eighth and ninth holes further left than Bernie Sanders but enjoyed a couple of excellent pieces of luck, finding his ball with a clear route to the hole. He cashed in with birdies at both holes.
Woods was also lucky at the par-five 17th, where he sprayed his drive so far right it finished the other side of the creek that lines the fairway.
But he could only gouge a wedge back to the fairway and a par proved the end of his hopes of a 15th major for at least another nine months.