Woods checking all the right boxes in comeback

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POTOMAC, Md. – In the arc of Tiger Woods’ most recent comeback the progression back to competitive relevance has been both patient and predictable.

From those early days at the Hero World Challenge when he preached patience and cautious optimism to more familiar comments in recent weeks suggesting he’s ready to dive into the deep end of the competitive pool and win on the PGA Tour for the first time in nearly five years. “I think as the years progress, I’m not that far away from putting it together where I can win,” he said on Friday under a blazing summer sun at the Quicken Loans National. “Right now I’m only four back. The scores aren’t going to be that low, the golf course is getting a little bit more difficult. Again, just be patient with it and a long way to go.”

That’s light years from where we began, from those uncertain days last December in the Bahamas when he reasoned, “I don’t know what the future entails.”

This week’s Washington, D.C., stop is Woods’ 11th official event and with each passing week those unknowns have been drawn into focus. Each tournament has been a test of his swing and his body and even his competitive zeal.

He played back-to-back weeks in February – on two coasts, no less – as the ultimate beta test of his surgically fused back.

Body: Check.

He pieced 3 1/2 solid rounds together at the Honda Classic and closed the gap even closer at the Valspar Championship when he lost to Paul Casey by a stroke.

Game: Check.

Although his consistency hasn’t been what he’d like in the chapters since Florida – specifically his putting which prompted Tiger’s wholesale change to a mallet-headed putter this week at TPC Potomac – each missed opportunity has added one more check on his comeback itinerary.

It is telling that those who have watched Tiger from the best vantage point don’t see the same guy who made red and black a Sunday staple….