POTOMAC, United States (AFP) - Tiger Woods, bolstered by surprising power in his return from back surgery, has tested new putters while hosting the US PGA Quicken Loans National in hopes of ending a five-year win drought.
The 14-time major winner plays his 11th event of the year, and only planned tuneup for next month's British Open, starting Thursday at TPC Potomac.
"I'm pretty excited the way I've hit the golf ball. I've done some things I haven't done in over a decade," Woods said Wednesday (June 27).
"No one has had clubhead speeds as what I've had on the tour this year with a lower back fusion. These are things that I didn't know I could do and all of a sudden I'm doing it."
What the 42-year-old American hasn't done lately, however, is show the sharp putting that saw him share second at the Valspar Championship and fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
"If I have the same putting stroke I had earlier in the year with the ball-striking I've had, that would be where I want to get to," Woods said. "Just got to put both those things together at the same time."
Frustration on the greens in recent weeks has prompted Woods to work with an Ardmore mallet putter rather than the Scotty Cameron model he used in 13 major wins and so far in his comeback.
"What changed? I don't know. That has been the frustrating part," Woods said. "I've had to just log in time and putt for hours to try to figure it out. I haven't putted well for about four tournaments now. I've struggled."
Former world number one Woods, ranked 82nd this week, tested several kinds Wednesday but didn't guarantee he would use the mallet putter this week.
"I put it in early last week. Tried a bunch of different shapes and sizes," Woods said. "I tried and tried to come up with something that I felt I could swing and trust."
Woods has not played in his Washington event since 2015 because of back issues, but recalls wondering last year if he might ever play again.
"It's basically a gift to be able to play again. There was no guarantee I would ever play golf again, forget the PGA Tour. So to go from that to here, I didn't foresee that happening, I really didn't," Woods said with a laugh.
"I'm competing, I'm playing and I'm having just a great time doing it."
Woods won the 2009 and 2012 National crowns when the event was played at nearby Congressional Country Club. This will be the first time Woods competes at TPC Potomac.
"It's certainly a lot more difficult than what I had envisioned," Woods said. "They've got the rough up, fairways in, it's like a mini-Open here.
"You have to drive it well. You cannot play out of this rough. You have to hit a lot of fairways. The greens are tough to get to if you don't hit fairways."
The event struggled to find a sponsor this year and isn't expected to return to TPC Potomac on next year's revamped US PGA schedule.
"The support has been fantastic. We just haven't got the sponsorship dollars," Woods said."This is a tough climate right now and to ask a company for $7, $8, $9 million, it's tough."
Woods will play alongside compatriot Bill Haas and Australian Marc Leishman in the first two rounds.