- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2015

Tiger Woods announced Monday that he will not back out of the limelight, as some have suggested he should, after finishing this past weekend’s Memorial Tournament in last place.

Instead, Woods plans on ramping up his tournament play over the summer.

“I’m finally healthy enough to do it,” Woods said. “My back is good enough to do it, so yeah, I’m fully committed to playing more golf all this summer. Now I just need to get my ranking up high enough so I can get into some of these events and continue playing.

“It’s kind of funny to think about that,” Woods continued. “I think I have won at Firestone eight times. I’m not even in the event [this year]. So, I need to obviously start playing a little bit better to get into that event and then get into the playoffs. That’s not guaranteed, so I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. I’m looking forward to it.”

Woods appeared via video chat at media day for the 2015 Quicken Loans National tournament, which will be hosted at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Prince William County, Virginia from July 27 to Aug. 2.

Though the media day was intended to center on the National, Woods‘ last-place performance at Memorial quickly became the topic of discussion. According to Woods, his performance suffered because he is in the early stages of adopting changes to his swing. While some saw the events of the weekend as more reason to doubt if Woods will ever return to top playing form, the 39-year-old had an entirely different takeaway.

“I look at it this way — it’s about getting reps,” Woods said. “I got a lot of reps this weekend.”

To be exact, Woods had 302 reps — the most he has ever taken in a 72-hole competition — to fine-tune his swing at Memorial. While most found it hard to look beyond the 85 he shot Saturday, Woods cited the 2-over-par 74 he shot in the tournament’s final round as evidence that his swing is progressing.

“I went out there with the same mentality: grind away, focus as hard as I can and play the correct shots,” Woods said. “At one point I got to three-under-par and lost it coming home, but I showed signs of what we’re working on was starting to come together and that was pretty exciting to see, finally starting to hit those shots.”

As the last-place competitor heading into Sunday, Woods played the final round at Memorial by himself — something he has never had to do before under the same set of circumstances.

“It wasn’t a bad thing,” Woods said before a brief pause. “The only bad part is that you’re in last place doing it. I have had it where guys have pulled out on either a Saturday or a Sunday because of injuries, and I’ve played as a single that way, but not because I was in last place. So, that wasn’t a very good feeling knowing I was in last place and going out that early.”

The Memorial was just the fifth tournament of the year for Woods, but his summer schedule is beginning to fill up. Woods was confident that two weeks was enough time for him and swing consultant Chris Como to get his stroke in good enough shape not only to compete but also to contend at the U.S. Open, which starts June 18.

A little more than a month later, Woods is planning to play in the National, which he founded in 2007 to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Woods has won at National twice: Once in 2009, the year before it moved from Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, and again in 2012, the year it returned to Congressional.

Now that the tournament is moving to Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, the field, which is largely undetermined at this point, will have to adjust accordingly. Woods hasn’t played the course in several years, but he recounted what he could remember about the new site.

“I don’t know how many changes they’ve made, but it was a great match play course, a lot of different fingers on the greens,” Woods said. “We had to be very precise. Robert Trent Green loved to put bunkers on the insides of dog legs.”

While most of the tournament’s competitors have yet to commit, Mike Antolini, president of championships for the Tiger Woods Foundation, announced that defending 2014 National champion Justin Rose will participate along with Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Brandt Snedeker and Vijay Singh.

They will all be curious what version of Woods shows up.

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