CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tiger Woods spent three months working toward one week in April.
The Masters has come and gone.
Woods took a small step back at Augusta National when he misfired with his iron play, didn’t break par until the final round and tied for 32nd. He finished 16 shots back, his widest distance from the lead in 19 appearances at the Masters.
It was a big step forward for Patrick Reed, who slept three hours after winning his first major, woke up at 5 a.m. because he couldn’t sleep and responded to 155 text messages and about 180 emails.
“Every one,” he said with a big smile.
This is no time to rest. Golf shifts into overdrive starting Thursday with the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, a course that hosted the PGA Championship last summer and boasts enough star players to make it feel like the next best thing to a major.
The Players Championship is the following week. Three major championships, starting with the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, are played in a nine-week span.
“Building toward next week,” Woods said. “Hopefully, I can have everything peak for this week and next week, but mainly next week. And after that, it’s getting ready for Shinnecock.”
Woods put a new set of irons in his bag for Quail Hollow, and in some respects, the course feels new. He hasn’t played the Wells Fargo Championship since 2012, and while he won in 2007, he has missed the cut the last two times he played. It’s the only golf course where he has missed the 36-hole cut twice.
Since then, and mainly for the PGA Championship, Quail Hollow combined the opening two holes into one long par 4 and built two new holes on the front nine. Since the last time he played, the 16th hole has been overhauled so that the green sits by the water.
“The golf course is much harder than it used to be, that’s for sure,” Woods said after his pro-am round Wednesday. “It’s longer, but it’s also more difficult.”
Woods wasn’t sure what to make of the Masters except that his irons were off. He had been building toward April, a phrase he used on more than one occasion from the onset of his return following a fourth back surgery. He was in the hunt on the front nine of the final round at the Honda Classic and came within one shot of a playoff at the Valspar Championship. He was one shot out of the lead with three holes to play at Bay Hill until hitting his tee shot out-of-bounds.
And then he never featured at Augusta National.
“I didn’t hit my irons very good,” Woods said. “If I did hit a green, I hit it above the hole, I hit it in the wrong spot. I had defensive putts for most of the days. I needed to be more precise and I wasn’t. Still need to continue to work on it and try to get sharp, and hopefully this will be a good week.”
Woods said he put his golf clubs in the closet for 10 days after the Masters, did some moderate weightlifting while staying flexible and then went back to work on his golf muscles and the speed of his swing.
“And I got them all back,” he said.
Reed returned last week at the Zurich Classic, a team event he played with Patrick Cantlay, and tied for seventh. He was in awe of the green jacket, which he wore during a media tour in New York, to a Houston Astros game and even to fast-food restaurant.
Just don’t get the idea that he is satisfied with his year.
Reed won’t even buy into the notion that no matter what happens the rest of the year, this will be his best year. He won twice in 2014. He only has one trophy this year. That’s how he measures success.
“I’m never going to settle,” Reed said. “I’m not the type that just because I won one major means I’m done. I want to go out, compete and get that feeling more and more and try to win as many golf tournaments as I possibly can.”
This would be a big one, because of the quality of the golf course and the field.
Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler all are playing for the first time since the Masters. Justin Thomas has a chance to go to No. 1 in the world, and Quail Hollow is where he won the PGA Championship last August.
Woods is coming off a three-week break, his longest since he returned to the PGA Tour in January, and it was a welcome respite.
“I played a lot of golf heading into Augusta, more golf than I thought I would be able to play,” he said. “It was nice to shut it down, reflect, analyze, sit back and try and figure out what’s the best course of action going forward so I can win events.”