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Woods sees better swing, days ahead
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/11/2010 8:34 PM | Updated: 9/11/2010 8:35 PM

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When you've had everything in life a person could possibly hope for, and so recklessly given much of it away, it stands to reason that it might be hard to dream of a better time.

But Tiger Woods says it isn't true, that he's hopeful and optimistic about the future.

That's off the course. On it, Woods hasn't allowed himself to dream of 2011 and how good it would be to play great golf again, once he's had time away from the PGA Tour to work on a new swing.

"I honestly haven't thought that far ahead," Woods said as he walked from the practice green to his car after Saturday's round at the BMW Championship. "I'm too deep in the process right now of practicing and learning. It's just too hard to think about next year."

But he does believe he'll be Tiger Woods again, that he'll play great golf, dominate and win majors.

"Absolutely. I'm sure of it," Woods said. "I'm not saying it can't be next year. I'm just saying I haven't thought about next year."

Not while he's grinding it out at Tour events during a swing change that would have had some players thinking about a new line of work. It has Woods thinking only about getting better every day, something that has occurred this week at Cog Hill, where he has gone 73-72-68.

Much like Friday's round, Woods on Saturday could have gone low had he gotten the putter working early, but despite several good looks and hitting more greens Saturday (13) than he did the first two days, Woods needed 3 birdies in his last six holes to finish 3-under on the day and even-par for the tourney.

"It seems like every day is a step forward,'' Woods said. "I'm hitting shots that are just so flush and so clean. I'm able to hit the ball through the wind again. That's something I hadn't done in a long time. Just got to stick with it."

The greens were very slow early as Woods teed off at 7:35 a.m. in a steady rain, finishing two hours ahead of the leaders, who played minus the rain and much of their round in bright sunshine.

A bright spot for Woods was his short game, which was brutal the first couple of days and brilliant at times Saturday.

He got up and down out of the sand on his first hole (No. 10), and after birdies on 4 and 5 and nearly another on 6, Woods was in trouble on No. 7.

Buried in the face of the bunker, short-sided, standing far above the ball and with seemingly no chance to hold the green, Woods flopped it past the hole and made the comebacker from 7 feet to save par.

"It was better, but I still need a lot of work on my short game because it's a different move than my full swing," Woods said. "At the same time, your short shot is a microcosm of your full swing, so I'm caught between techniques sometimes."

As unhappy as Woods was with his play around the greens Friday, I asked him if he had managed to work on it Friday night or early Saturday.

"No, I've just been working in the hotel room trying to make sure I get the full swing situated," Wood said, "and hoping I didn't miss any fairways or greens."

At least he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

What is gone is any chance of advancing to the Tour Championship in Atlanta next week. Despite a decent round, Woods started the day 7 shots out of the top five and ended the day 6 away from qualifying for the FedEx Cup finale.

"I just play. That's all I can do," Woods said. "I'm trying to win this golf tournament, and right now I'm 8 back."

As if the lack of interest in golf isn't bad enough when Woods isn't dominating, Saturday's early tee time was courtesy of NBC, which cared so much about the BMW that it sent players off in the dark and three at a time on 1 and 10 so it could be off the air in time for Notre Dame-Michigan.

On Sunday, Woods tees it up at 10:56 a.m. with Phil Mickelson, which is usually a prescription for a very quiet pairing.

In this case, at least the two can talk about how much they hate the greens, despise the Ryder Cup, and how unlikely it is that either will be a factor at East Lake without a round in the low 60s Sunday.

Woods probably doesn't care about Atlanta. What he needs much more than another tournament is time away to work on his game.

"It's hard because I'm making a complete swing change while playing," Woods said. "It's one thing to do it at home and hitting thousands of balls.

"I'm trying to play a golf course, trying to make a lot of different changes, and a change in philosophy, so that's been a hard grind.

"But I'm very pleased. I'm headed in the right direction."

So there is hope for Woods. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

And for the first time in nearly a year, that light isn't a freight train headed right at him.