GAINESVILLE (Virginia) • Struggling tournament host Tiger Woods recovered from another woeful start with a back-nine birdie binge on Thursday to spark some confidence that the form which had seen him win 14 Major titles might return consistently.
Golf's former world No. 1 opened with bogeys on three of his first four holes. But he rallied to start the back nine with four consecutive birdies to fire a three-under 68 to share 27th at the US PGA Quicken Loans National.
"It was nice to actually turn it around," he said. "I felt like I hit the ball well enough. I didn't do anything different. I said stay patient and it will turn, which it did, and I mean I had a run there."
Woods said he turned a so-so round into a good one and played his best round since he shared 17th at the Masters, his best finish of the year.
"You've got to score and I made a lot of key putts," he said. "The last time I did it is probably Augusta."
He then denied talk that he had split with swing coach Chris Como, who is not at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club this week. And he took his first look at next year's Rio Olympics, in which he was once expected to star but now, at 266th in the rankings, is almost certain to miss.
"I don't have to worry about the Olympics right now. It's not really a concern of mine," Woods said.
"Some of the top players, there's going to be a schedule concern. Right now, that's not the case for me. It's going to be interesting to see how players pace themselves."
Next season's schedule was announced on Thursday.
There are only two weeks between the British Open and PGA Championship and only two weeks between that and the Olympics.
US PGA play-offs and Europe's defence of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine follow in short order.
"Don't forget on the backside of the Olympics, we still have the Ryder Cup," Woods said. "It's going to be a lot of events all in a row with very little rest. A lot of Euros have to play their home Open.
"It's doubly tough for them."
Asked if he still worked with Como, Woods said: "Yeah, is there a problem?"
Having struggled most of last year due to back surgery and this year with swing changes, he looked set for more troubles on Thursday.
He lipped out a four-footer for par at the first and found the rough with his approach at three.
He also missed a 12-foot par putt at the fourth.
But he birdied the par-five fifth and eighth and caught fire at the turn. He dropped a nine-foot birdie putt at the 10th, a seven-footer at the 11th and landed his approach close to the cup at the 12th.
Finding a bunker off the 13th tee looked to end his run but he blasted out to 12 feet and sank the putt.
He found the sand again off the par-five 14th tee and began a run of pars into the clubhouse.
Japan's Ryo Ishikawa fired a hole-in-one during a sparkling 63 to grab a share of the lead.
The 23-year-old Asian star also reeled off six birdies in a row to match two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, a South African twice Ishikawa's age, atop the leaderboard.
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