BOSTON, September 3 – Tiger Woods, safely into the second event of the US PGA Tour playoffs, hopes to build momentum at the Deutsche Bank Championship as he seeks a positive finish to a year best termed "different.""I’m starting to see some progress, which is nice," Woods said Thursday as the field prepared for the Friday start of the tournament.
"Mentally, I’m hitting the ball much better, hence I have more confidence. I’m driving the ball much straighter, hitting the ball a little bit farther, especially with my irons.
"And those are all positive signs. It’s just a matter of making it a little bit more natural. And that’s just reps."
Woods secured his spot in this week’s tournament with an equal 12th-placed finish at The Barclays last week.
It was his first tournament since his divorce from ex-wife Elin Nordegren became final and his best finish in two months.
He is 65th in the FedEx Cup playoff standings and with only the top 70 advancing to the third playoff event – the BMW Championship – Woods needs another solid showing to earn a chance to defend the BMW title he won last year.
Woods has never failed to defend a title because he failed to qualify, but as Woods himself said: "It has been a different year."
Since his return to golf in April following a sex scandal that engulfed his personal and professional life, Woods has struggled on and off the course.
Gossip sites were busily reporting this week that Woods has taken out a 54 million-dollar mortgage on his Florida waterfront estate – although details on how that might fit into his divorce settlement were unknown.
But Woods actually made it through an an entire press conference on Thursday without being asked about his personal life, a welcome relief no doubt, as Woods tries to keep his focus on his work with swing coach Sean Foley as well as his efforts to improve his putting.
The tournament is not only key for the remainder of the playoffs, it’s a last chance to impress US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, who will name his captain’s picks for the team to take on Europe on September 7.
Woods said putting the Ryder Cup out of his mind was his best chance of punching his ticket to the match-play showdown.
"I’m focused on just winning," he said. "If I win golf tournaments, then I think our captain hopefully will pick me."
Steve Stricker, the defending Deutsche Bank champion and second behind Matt Kuchar in the playoff standings, said he thinks Pavin has a "pretty good idea" who his picks will be.
"I think he still has some questions. I think it depends a lot on what happens here this week, and he wants to have some players step up and show him something," Stricker said.
Kuchar, whose win at The Barclays vaulted him to the top of the playoff standings, doesn’t have to worry about that. He and Stricker are both qualified for the Ryder Cup and are both assured of reaching the Tour Championship that caps the playoffs.
Their only concern will be to maintain their momentum in what could turn into a messy week if Hurricane Earl blows through.
With a forecast for stormy weather to move in on Friday afternoon, officials moved up the tee times for the first round by 40 minutes in hopes of completing the round.