Tiger in prime position for East Lake despite some doubts

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Tiger Woods heads into this week's season-ending Tour Championship in pursuit of his sixth victory of the year as the top seed in the FedExCup standings, yet a few question marks are still hovering over his game.

No one has come close to his six PGA Tour wins during 2013 but the American world number one has lost some momentum in the last two FedExCup playoff events with poor putting undermining his once renowned ability to close out tournaments.

After getting into prime position to contend for the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston just over two weeks ago, Woods fell back into a tie for 65th with scores of 72 and 73 in the last two rounds.

At the weather-delayed BMW Championship in Chicago, which ended on Monday, Woods trailed by just four shots going into the final round but he again struggled with his putting as he slipped back into a share of 11th in an elite field of 70.

"I think I had somewhere in the neighbourhood of either five to seven three-putts," Woods said of his four rounds at Conway Farms Golf Club where low scores were plentiful.

"It was not a very good putting week. You know, it was just one of those weeks where I just didn't have it."

Woods has recorded the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour this season, with 68.87, but significantly he sits a lowly 118th when it comes to his average score in the final round, managing only 71.43.

"Eliminate the simple mistakes on the greens, and I would have been all right," the 14-times major champion said of his final round at Conway Farms.

"I would have been in there with a better chance. But I'm in good shape going into this week."

Woods is certainly in good shape this week at East Lake as one of just five players in a field of 30 players who would secure FedExCup honours, and the mind-boggling bonus of $10 million, with victory here.

As the number one seed in the standings, he has a reasonable chance of landing the overall prize with a top-five finish at the Tour Championship, and mathematically could still do so by ending up 29th at East Lake.

"Well, I'm in a position just like the other four guys in the top five," said Woods, who was the FedExCup champion in 2007 and 2009. "Top five you control your destiny. You win the tournament, you win it outright.

"Sneds proved that last year," he added, referring to fellow American Brandt Snedeker, who clinched the 2012 Tour Championship and FedExCup honours after starting the week fifth in the standings.

"With the double (points) reset, it's all about positioning," said Woods. "We're jockeying for position to be in the top five, and I was able to accomplish that."

The other question mark hanging over Woods' game at the moment relates to the rules violation he incurred during the second round of the BMW Championship where he was hit with a two-stroke penalty for a moving ball.

STOOD OUT

What made that infraction stand out was that it was his third this year, but the first where he was still unhappy with the decision even after watching video footage of the incident.

"After seeing the video, I thought the ball just oscillated, and I thought that was it," Woods said. "I thought that was the end of story. But they (rules officials) saw otherwise.

"They replayed it again and again and again, and I felt the same way."

The infraction occurred on the par-four first at Conway Farms where Woods struck his second shot over the back of the green under trees, then tried to remove a twig from his ball before playing his third.

Though Woods felt his ball had only oscillated before he ran up a double-bogey six there, video footage showed that it had slightly shifted its position and his score was amended to a quadruple-bogey eight.

While many critics have expressed surprise that Woods could have been unaware of his ball's movement at the time, some have pointed out that it may not have been that obvious from his angle, looking down.

Woods has since received welcome support from his fellow players.

"I've got good eyesight, I was probably 20 feet from the television ... I looked; I didn't realise that ball moved," said Jim Furyk. "It was so minute, it was probably tough to pick up."

Steve Stricker said: "There's always a fine line between oscillating and moving. A player can see it as one thing and the camera is going to pick it up differently. It's tough."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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