WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS (West Virginia) • Tiger Woods has declared his performance at the Greenbrier Classic a "very positive week" and sounded genuinely excited about his prospects ahead of next week's British Open at St Andrews.
The former world No. 1 has won twice at the Old Course, in 2000 and 2005, but it would be premature to suggest his name is quite ready to be etched on the Claret Jug once more.
Still, after signing his first bogey-free card in 56 rounds on the PGA Tour, he had reason for tempered optimism, after finishing in joint-32nd place, six strokes behind winner Danny Lee in West Virginia on Sunday.
A day after six-time Major champion Nick Faldo concluded that Woods was still prone to unravel under pressure, the American was singing a different tune.
"It's the best I hit it in a long, long time," the 14-time Major champion told reporters after signing for a three-under 67. "This could have been one of those special rounds.
"I really could have gone low. I had full control over all clubs. I hit it great. I had shapes both ways, right-to-left, left-to-right.
"If I just made a couple of putts, this week could have been completely different.
"I've made some nice strides heading into the British Open."
It is only one month since Woods shot his worst round as a professional, an 85 at the Memorial tournament, and he also missed the cut at the US Open.
Although the easy conditions on a rain-softened course at the Greenbrier did not provide the most exacting test, Woods said that being in the midst of swing changes at the Memorial played a role in what appeared to be a performance that augured badly for his future.
"I made a big giant step at Memorial, even though I shot those numbers," he said. "I shot those high numbers but shifting the baseline like I did, consequently I'm here now. Very excited about it."
New Zealand's Lee also had reasons to cheer when he defeated David Hearn on the second play-off hole to capture the Greenbrier Classic - his first USPGA Tour title.
Lee fired a closing 67 to finish at 13-under 267 to set up a four-man play-off with Canada's Hearn (67) and Americans Robert Streb (65) and Kevin Kisner (64).
"All I can say is wow," said Lee after two-putting on the second play-off hole for the win. "It feels amazing. I was so close a lot of times this year and I finally did it."
Lee not only earned his first US tour title but also shot up to 78 in the world rankings from 158. But Woods dropped six spots to 226.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE