Big finish heartens Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has struggled to a three-over par 74 in his PGA return after a three-month injury layoff, but was optimistic after birdies on three of his last six holes at the National.

The 14-time major champion couldn’t consistently summon the skill that drew worldwide audiences to him in his first comeback round, but he improved to the finish in his first warm-up for next month’s British Open.

“The more I played, the more I felt comfortable about shot selections, my sight lines, all different things,” Woods said on Thursday.

“I played a lot better than the score indicated, which is good.”

On a Congressional Country Club layout where Woods won in 2009 and 2012, he struggled early after not playing competitively for 109 days due to back surgery to relieve a pinched nerve.

But Woods said his back was not a problem at any point in the round.

“The back is great,” Woods said.

“I had no issues at all. No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic. That’s one of the reasons why I let go on those tee shots. I hit it pretty hard out there.”

Woods, who began off the 10th tee, opened and closed the back nine with back-to-back bogeys, then made bogeys at the second and third to fall 10 strokes off the pace.

“I made so many little mistakes,” Woods said.

Woods responded with a birdie at the fourth hole and consecutive birdies at the seventh and eighth.

“The hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively,” Woods said.

“Adrenaline is rushing and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. Try to get the feels. Didn’t start happening until midway through my front nine. It unfortunately took a while to get the feel for it.”

Woods, chasing Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record of 18 major titles, hopes to play his way into shape this week ahead of the British Open at Royal Liverpool, where he won the Claret Jug in 2006.

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