Aug
4
2011
Tiger Woods’ Return: Mostly Pars, All Smiles
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Spotted: A happy and healthy Tiger

Well, it was actually mostly pars and mostly smiles.

As you may have heard, Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf and finished his round, posting a two-under 68. I followed him for 14 holes and walked away impressed with what I saw. From the start, his swing looked more simplified and smoother. Even though he pushed his first tee shot into the fairway bunker, I thought his swing looked solid. 

I filed a story for WSJ.com and I could write another thousand words, but in the interest of time and short attention spans, I’ll spare you. Here’s an excerpt:

“The amount of progress I made in my golf swing, the amount of compression I had in the golf ball, the shots I was hitting,” said Woods when asked what he discovered in competition. “I was hitting proper shots out there, and the distances I was hitting the golf ball. This was fun.”

Though he only hit five out of 14 fairways, he wasn’t spraying it, either. His misses were usually only a few yards from the short grass and in spots that put him in good position to approach the greens.

For example, on the 13th, he drove it in the left rough, but while he didn’t have an ideal lie, he still had a shot to the green. Had he pushed it, the trees overhanging along the right side would have blocked him and he would have had to hit a much more difficult punch out.

Meanwhile, his iron play was solid. Woods threw darts on the 4th and 5th holes, but missed the makeable birdie putts. The worst shot he hit all day came on 16, where his approach landed 31 feet from the hole. But he dropped a bomb for birdie – vintage Tiger, minus the fist pump.

Check out the full story here, if not just for the fun headline.

Other highlights:

*On the 11th Tiger striped a 3-wood 270 yards, splitting the fairway, despite his foot slipping and his one-handed finish. His BFF Darrren Clarke needled him for the near fall. Then Clarke nearly whiffed his fairway wood, which ended up 80 yards behind Tiger’s ball. (The marshal said it was the shortest of the day.) Naturally, it gave Tiger the opportunity to jab him back. Karma!

*What you couldn’t see on TV (luckily for you all): Tiger’s swamp ass. He was wearing dark gray slacks, so it didn’t show up on TV. By the third hole, he had swamp ass that was reminiscent of Robert Garrigus in Memphis last year. I mean, we were all sweating in the sweltering heat, but it was impossible not to notice Tiger’s wet bottom. He kept wiping the sweat from his brim, too. On the 4th tee, he used the grass as a towel, wiping the excess moisture from his hand.

*Tiger really is back. He wasn’t fond of the last question asked and got all catty over it. From the transcript:

Q. Do your expectations change after today’s round for this tournament instead of looking at maybe I’ve got four rounds to play and get myself — now are you thinking about winning? Are you thinking about –
TIGER WOODS: I thought about winning going in.

Q. Never changed?
TIGER WOODS: Why would it? I don’t know.

*As he left the podium, he had to walk past me and muttered, “That’s why you guys listen and I play.” Well, duh. I was taken aback, a little shocked because he didn’t need to get pissed off about a harmless question. So that was too bad because it was fun to watch him play today. I was really, really sick of lunging at the ball and hitting shots, like, you know, a writer. Ha!

*Other interesting parts of his presser:

Q. All things considered, how encouraged are you?
TIGER WOODS: It feels great, feels great. You know, as anybody who’s been off and who’s been injured, first time back, it’s a little nervous to see what happens. But my practice sessions were good, so there’s no reason why I should be worried out there. I went out there and just let it go, let it rip and see what happens.

Q. Did you know what to expect today and do you know what to expect now tomorrow?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I expect myself to be more prepared going into tomorrow. I’ve got the competitive feel now. I know what it feels like to get into the flow of the round, the rhythm of playing and walking, and just the flow of playing tournament golf, which is way different than zipping around in shorts and a cart.

Q. You’ve said in the past that there’s no eureka moment, no one swing, one putt that gets you back to where you were. Do you still feel that way?
TIGER WOODS: Absolutely, it’s a progress, a progression. You take it step by step. Just when I think this is pretty good, I get a little bit better. This one, Sean and I say, okay, that’s wonderful position, that’s where you need to get to, I get even better. That’s what’s fun about it is we keep refining it.
Today some of the shots, some of the drives I hit out there, I got my power back.

Alright, that’s it for now. Please share your thoughts on Tiger’s performance today.