Published November 20, 2014
The flashes of brilliance at the Dubai Desert Classic didn't blind Tiger Woods to the signs that his new swing remains a work in progress.
Even so, Woods has no doubt about his future after stumbling in the final round Sunday, shooting a 3-over 75 to finish seven shots behind winner Alvaro Quiros in a tie for 20th.
"I feel like I can still win golf tournaments," Woods said. "I'm not that old. I've still got some years ahead of me."
Woods drew cheers Thursday when he hit a 3-wood 250 yards to the 18th green for an eagle. But he had trouble finding the fairway for much of the week in Dubai, his putter ran hot and cold, and his once-dangerous short game continued to let him down.
Woods started the final round a shot behind, but opened with two bogeys on his first three holes. He came back with birdies on Nos. 6 and 11, but followed that with a bogeys on Nos. 12 and 14, and then a double bogey on the last.
Woods, who won in Dubai in 2006 and 2008, has now gone 16 tournaments and 15 months without a victory after previously winning 14 majors and 82 tournaments.
"Yeah, very frustrating," Woods said of his final round. "I got off to such a poor start, I was 2 over through three early and just couldn't make it up from there."
Quiros shot a 68, surviving a wild round that included a hole-in-one and a triple bogey to finish at 11-under 277, one stroke ahead of Anders Hansen of Denmark (70) and James Kingston of South Africa (67).
Woods opened with a 71, moved into contention Friday with a 66, and survived windy conditions Saturday for a 72 that put him in position for his first victory since the Australian Masters in November 2009. He just couldn't keep the momentum going Sunday in a final round that exposed the problems with his swing.
On the second, he drove over the green and then chipped past the hole, leading to his first bogey. On the third, he yelled at several photographers for disturbing his swing after his approach went left.
But the No. 3-ranked Woods also showed signs that the work he has been doing on his swing with coach Sean Foley is paying dividends. He hit a 160-yard approach to within a few feet of the pin for a birdie on the sixth and then on the par-3 11th hit a tee shot that settled a few feet away from the flag for an easy birdie.
Woods said he just needed "more work and more practice."
"As I said when I came in this week, I hit the ball pure, and that's the thing," he said. "When the wind blows, I have to shape shots and hit shots differently and all my old feels are kind of out the window. That's the thing about making changes. As I said, I've been through this before with my last two instructors and it will come around."
The former world No. 1 believes his performance this week was "a step in the right direction."
"I improved a lot considering where I was at Torrey Pines a couple of weeks ago," Woods said of the tournament where he had his worst season-opening performance. "Obviously, I didn't finish the way I needed to win. ... Put myself there after two rounds and just didn't get it done."
Woods tied for 44th at Torrey Pines, where he had won the last five times he had played and had never finished out of the top 10.
On Sunday Woods couldn't have missed the cheers as Quiros chipped in for an eagle on No. 2 and then added several more birdies to move to 11 under and five shots ahead of Woods after six holes. By the turn, most fans had started shifting their attention to the duel between Quiros, Anders Hansen of Denmark and James Kingston of South Africa.
Woods still had a mathematical chance as he came onto the 14th when he was four shots back with five holes to go.
But Woods hit his drive into the rocks, a second into the bunker and then missed an easy par put to settle for bogey that ended his chances. He finished with three more pars and the double bogey on 18.
A victory here would have drawn a line in the sand for the beleaguered Woods.
This would have been his 12th win outside the PGA Tour and perhaps his biggest since the Thanksgiving night car accident in 2009 that derailed his run as the world's top golfer.
For Woods, it's back to the driving range and the hope that he can make his mark at the upcoming Match Play Championships, starting Feb. 23 at Dove Mountain in Arizona.
"I know what I can do in the game and Sean and I are trying to get there," Woods said.