x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Tiger Woods is encouraged by Australian Open showing

But for a couple of poor tee shots, Tiger Woods believes he could have been celebrating the end of a two-year title drought at the Australian Open.

SYDNEY // But for a couple of poor tee shots, Tiger Woods believes he could have been celebrating the end of a two-year title drought at the Australian Open.

A week in Sydney that started with the controversy over an alleged racist comment made about him by Steve Williams, his former caddie, ended with the 14-time major champion back in the hunt at the business end of a tournament.

Two years of injury and personal turmoil almost brought a halt to one of the greatest careers in golf but there were signs at the Lakes Golf Club that Woods is finally taking the steps forward that will bring him his 96th career title.

"I felt great, it's nice to be finally healthy again, it's been such a long time," Woods, now ranked 58th in the world, said after finishing in third place, two shots behind Australia's Greg Chalmers.

That was the 35 year old's mantra all week. His recovery from Achilles and knee injuries, he said, was finally allowing him to put in the hours of work necessary to get to grips with his new swing, and it was starting to show in tournament play.

On Thursday, he posted his first blemish free round for nine months with a four-under par 68. On Friday his five-under 67 put him into the lead overnight for the first time this year.

Saturday's three-over 75 was a step backwards but at least, he said, he was fit enough to get out and tweak a few things.

"I was close to finding it yesterday but it wasn't quite there," he said. "Did some work on the range, did a lot of work on the putting range and found my stroke, found some of the old keys and rolled it good today."

Woods now moves on to Melbourne for the Presidents Cup next week and his showing in Sydney should at least have defused the controversy around Fred Couples selecting him as a captain's pick for the United States.

"It will be good to get with the team and figure out our strategy," Woods said. "It'll be great."