DUBLIN, Ohio — Tiger Woods was never going to win the Memorial Tournament on Sunday. He began the final round too far from the lead.
But Woods had the look, created an electrical vibe around Muirfield Village and played like he was in Sunday-afternoon, final-group major-championship mode.
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He finished 9-under for the week after shooting a final-round 5-under 67 that looked — by the way he was striking the ball — as if it was going to be a lot lower. Woods made the turn in 5-under 31 and then birdied Nos. 11 and 12 to get to 7-under for the day and 11-under for the tournament.
It left him and his caddie, Joe LaCava, very bullish on his form entering the U.S. Open in less than two weeks at Pebble Beach, the site of Woods’ record-setting U.S. Open win in 2000.
“Going into [Sunday] I was never going to win the tournament, but I was hoping I could get something positive going into the [U.S.] Open and I was able to accomplish that,’’ Woods said. “The goal was to get to double digits and get something positive going into the Open, and I got to double digits, I just didn’t stay there. But overall, it was a great day. I hit the ball really well and made some nice putts.’’
LaCava used the words “flawless’’ and “clinic’’ to describe Woods’ game Sunday.
“He probably didn’t play well enough to have a shot at winning the tournament, but the first 12 holes [Sunday] were an absolute clinic,’’ LaCava said. “He still hit some decent shots coming in. It wasn’t like he played poorly; he just didn’t get anything out of it the last five or six holes.
“Looking forward to a week from now [at the U.S. Open], it’s certainly going in the right direction with good momentum. I thought the iron play was top-notch [Sunday]. We probably didn’t score as well as we could have, didn’t quite finish off the round, but still the quality of shots on a scale of one to 10, I would say were a nine.
“What did he turn in, 5-under? He could have been 7-under. He had a good look at nine and a good look at four — both very makeable putts that were right on the jar, but just short. He shot 31 and it could have been 29. He hit two bad iron shots all day. Other than that, it was flawless.’’
Woods’ momentum stalled on the short par-4 14th hole, where he short-sided himself by hitting a wedge into the thick left greenside rough and bogeyed. He failed to birdie another hole the rest of the way home.
In the big picture, Woods, who won the Masters but missed the cut at the PGA Championship, liked the progress he made at the Memorial.
“Each day I got a little more crisp,’’ he said. “I [made] a few mistakes and didn’t keep the card as clean as I’d like — a couple of loose iron shots here and there. But overall, I drove it great this week. I just need to clean up the rounds and make sure I don’t drop two shots [with double bogeys]. Those hurt. If I can clean those up, I should be all right.’’
LaCava said he saw “a lot of good signs’’ that should bode well for Woods at Pebble Beach.
“He was driving it very well with the 3-wood and the 5-wood, which I think we’re going to be hitting a lot of tee shots with at Pebble,’’ LaCava said. “He’s driving it awfully well, too. When he knows he’s driving it well, he pretty much knows he’s always going to hit his irons pretty decent. So, if he can drive it well, he knows he’s going to be around Sunday afternoon.’’