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Tiger Woods ‘not quite as sharp’ as he wants to be ahead of British Open

Golfweek logo Golfweek 7/16/2019 Dan Kilbridge

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PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland - Remember the Masters?

It finished up about three months ago. Tiger Woods won. People were excited.

Winning the Masters answered golf's most pressing question over the past decade, whether or not he could ever get back on top, but it also altered the course of a season in which Woods already planned to step off the gas and play fewer events than he did in 2018.

The post-Augusta time off and overall lack of reps resulted in lackluster PGA Championship and U.S. Open showings, and he enters this week's British Open having not played a competitive round since Pebble Beach.

"It took a lot out of me," Woods said of that Masters win Tuesday at Royal Portrush. "It was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving. It's hard to believe that I pulled it off and I ended up winning the tournament."

That's part of the reason he downplayed expectations for the final major of the year during a jam-packed press conference where an endless symphony of camera clicks threatened to drown out the rest of the proceedings at times.

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"It's not quite as sharp as I'd like to have it right now," Woods said of his game. "My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it. I still need to get the ball, the shape of the golf ball, a little better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds are going to be changing. … Today it was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow. And hopefully that will be enough to be ready."

Woods has been able to squeeze a lot of prep in a short period of time so far this week, playing an uncharacteristic number of practice holes in the days leading up to his 10:10 a.m. Thursday tee time with Matthew Wallace and Patrick Reed.

After 18-hole practice sessions on Sunday and Monday, Woods teed off shortly before 8 a.m. local time Tuesday and created his own 7-hole loop. He played the first hole with Ryan Fox, Jake McLeod and Dimitrios Papadatos in a foursome we're unlikely to see again for some time.

Woods then skipped over from the first green to the par-3 13 th hole and played the gorgeous six-hole closing stretch as a single.

Joined by ever-present confidant Rob McNamara, part-time putting advisor Matt Killen and caddie Joe LaCava, Woods played multiple tee shots and often hit two approach shots from the fairways sprinkled with early-rising fans on either side.

It was quite the low-key affair compared to Monday's practice round with Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, and it could be his last before the shots start to count come Thursday.

"I think that I've seen enough of (the course) to understand that I'm still going to have to do quite a bit of homework in my yardage book of trying to figure out how I'm going to play each hole with the different winds that are going to be predicted to blow and where to miss the golf ball in the correct spots."

It's clear Woods doesn't have his A game right now, but he's been able to contend without his best stuff at times over the past two years. Doing so once more in Northern Ireland would make a nice bookend for a season currently defined by how it started rather than ended.

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