Tiger Woods has to make sure he is locked and loaded for next month’s US Open, after firing blanks for most of the USPGA Championship.
Woods, 44, shrugged off his lack of competitive golf heading into Harding Park, saying it was all about preparing properly for the run of big events coming up.
But he appeared badly undercooked at the USPGA, after just one competitive outing since mid-February – an uninspiring share of 40th place at the Memorial, an event he used to monopolise with five wins there.
A three under par 67 in the final round last night lifted Woods to one under for the week. But the pressure was off after back-to-back 72s condemned him to a place among the also-rans.
The events he and the rest will be targeting from now on include the Masters in November, as well as the US Open in New York from September 17-20, and the FedEx Cup play-offs.
Woods’ win at the Zozo Championship in Japan last October guarantees him a place in the FedEx dash for cash – with its £12million bonus – as it was part of the PGA Tour’s ‘wraparound’ season.
And he clearly needs to play in all three of those play-off events before heading to Winged Foot for the second Major of the year, as he cannot afford to be this rusty again.
But former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley is not convinced a better prepared Woods will be a force at the US Open, after watching him play his final round layered up against the chilly north California weather.
McGinley, commentating for Sky Sports, said: “I don’t think the problem is just about him being rusty. I think his back injury is a bigger thing, and Father Time is catching him up.
“I heard his interview after the third round and it was unusual to hear Tiger as downbeat as he was.
“He talked about the length of the course being so difficult for him, he talked about the other his hitting the ball so much further than him.
“It was tough for him to talk himself up for being in a better position to contend at the US Open, which is not going to be a pitch and putt contest, that’s for sure.
“The Masters is a different proposition because it requires a different skill set to the other Majors, and one that Tiger is probably more adept at now he is in his forties, as he showed with his victory at Augusta last year.
“But I just don’t think with his back still a worry the coller conditions we will get in New York are going to suit him.”
McGinley was equally dismissive of Rory McIlroy’s efforts at Harding Park, as his six year barren run in the Majors continued with another disappointing performance.
Mcilroy is still looking for his first top ten finish since the PGA Tour emerged from its three months shutdown in June.
And McGinley added: “It has been another week of mediocre from Rory, after his form was so good before the break in play.
“I’m sure he was licking his lips at the prospect of playing the Masters in its original slot before the whole world turned upside down. But he hasn’t been the same player recently.”