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Tiger Woods reacts to criticism

Tiger Woods has seized the opportunity to hit back at his critics after a vintage charge which almost won him the 105th U.S. Open on Sunday.

Woods, attacked for his decision to overhaul the swing which made him the world's best player, finished two strokes behind winner Michael Campbell after starting the final round six strokes behind overnight leader Retief Goosen.

"I've come a long way," said Woods. "And for all the people that have slammed me for making the changes, now you understand why I did it."

While fine-tuning his revamped game, the 29-year-old American has returned to the top of the world rankings with steadily improving, and occasionally spectacular, performances.

He kept Campbell in his sights on Sunday before two late bogeys allowed the New Zealander to capture his first major.

"Look how beautifully I hit it all week," said Woods. "I really controlled my flight well. I drove the ball better.

"The quality shots have gotten better, and that's exciting.

"We changed a few things after Augusta, trying to fine tune that, because of what I was struggling with through Augusta.

"And I've taken some nice giant strides, and that's exciting.

"I just wish I could have brought my putter with it."

If not for a disobedient putter, Woods would probably have added a 10th major championship to his trophy case and be halfway to the ever elusive calendar grand slam on Monday morning.

His swing overhaul all but complete, he was the best of the 83 players at reaching greens in regulation at Pinehurst but was third last in the putting charts.

With Woods's swing now in order, questions have been raised about his putting.

Acknowledged as one of the best pressure putters in history, Woods ranked second in putting on last year's PGA Tour but this season has had trouble finding the hole.

"If you look at my putting at my last tournament, the Memorial, I putted beautifully," he said. "I just could not get the speed right. And if you can't get the speed right, you can't get the line right."

A clutch birdie putt on 15th hole that moved him within a stroke of the lead prompted a rousing trademark fist-pump from Woods.

But his putting failures have produced glimpses of his dark side. The U.S. Masters champion vented his frustrations with regular outbursts of swearing and on one occasion last week angrily damaging the green at the par-three ninth where he three-putted.

Rules officials confronted Woods over his breach of golfing etiquette and chastised him but allowed him to escape without penalty.


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