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Tiger Woods makes a run, gains confidence at The Players Championship

| Sunday, May 13, 2018, 7:24 p.m.
Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Getty Images
Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Tiger Woods of the United States walks from the 15th to the 16th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Getty Images
Tiger Woods of the United States walks from the 15th to the 16th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Tiger Woods of the United States and Jordan Spieth of the United States talk on the 16th tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Getty Images
Tiger Woods of the United States and Jordan Spieth of the United States talk on the 16th tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Tiger Woods throws his club in frustration on the 14 fairway, during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Associated Press
Tiger Woods throws his club in frustration on the 14 fairway, during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Tiger Woods of the United States reacts to a missed putt on the 11th green during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Getty Images
Tiger Woods of the United States reacts to a missed putt on the 11th green during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Tiger Woods found himself 14 shots out of first place after making the cut on the number in The Players Championship.

Then he found his game during the weekend.

The former world No. 1 turned in his best score in relation to par since 2013, a 7-under-par 65 in the third round on Saturday, then closed out his first visit to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass since 2015 with a 69 in the final round Sunday of the PGA Tour's flagship event.

He finished at 11 under and was in a tie for 11th when he finished, well behind the leaders but well ahead of where he thought he'd be in his latest comeback.

For the first time this year in his return to the Tour following spinal fusion surgery in April of 2017, Woods didn't have to fight one aspect of his game and pieced together all of his talents in the final two rounds, from his driving to his iron play to his work with the putter.

Except for his play on the par-4 14th, one of the toughest holes on the testing course, and dunking one into the water on the par-3 17th, Woods, 42, was thrilled with his work, thankful for getting into the heat of contention, and confident heading forward.

"I played so well on the weekend but unfortunately, I didn't cash it in," Woods said. "Especially today because I hit it so well, I had it going but I just didn't close it out."

After opening with rounds of 72-71, Woods, who won this championship in 2001 and 2013, said he was close to putting all the pieces of his game together and said it was just a matter of time he would do just that, especially, he added, because he had gotten his golf "feels" back.

Then he made himself a prophet starting on a tranquil morning Saturday when he ruined the quiet ambiance by making plenty of noise with birdies on 8 of his first 12 holes. He was disappointed by not making another birdie in his final six holes but had plenty of bounce in his step heading into the final round after signing for a 65, his career-best in The Players.

Then on a pleasant Mother's Day afternoon, and playing alongside Jordan Spieth, who also shot his career-best round in The Players with a 65 on Saturday, Woods ignited again and got the place roaring with three consecutive birdies starting on the third hole and three more red numbers on 9, 11 and 12.

After starting the day 11 shots behind, he cut the deficit to just four shots but then, just as he did in the third round when he made his lone bogey of the round on the 14th hole, Woods ran into trouble again on the hole. After his best drive of the day " a fairway-splitting 354-yarder " he spun his sand wedge back off the green, then missed from seven feet for par.

On the famous par-3 17th, Woods came up short with his tee shot and wound up in the water, then didn't get up-and-down from the drop zone and walked off the peninsula with a double-bogey 5.

"I was pretty far back and I just tried to give myself a chance to win with four or five holes to go. I got it down to four and figured I had to make a few more birdies," Woods said. "I just didn't make it happen."

While he didn't leave this seaside community with his first Tour title since 2013, he did leave with much needed world ranking points. With his finish, he'll move up from his current ranking of 92nd. One of his main goals this year " besides winning and making the Ryder Cup team " is to play in the last World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. He has won there a record eight times, but he is not qualified for the event. He needs to be in the top 50 in the world by July 23 or July 30 to make it.

His Players performance was a big step forward " for his ranking and his confidence.

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