Aug
5
2011
Hey, Tiger! Got Any Rust-Colored Shirts?
By Stephanie Wei under WGC

Tiger: Seriously? How did that not break?!

That’s a joke, guys.

After nearly three months away from competitive golf to recover from injuries to his left leg, naturally, Tiger Woods needs to shake off a little rust at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and it usually shows in the short game.

From my vantage point, that’s where he gave away some shots, particularly on the greens. He misread a few putts, like the one on No. 8, and then almost missed the two-footer for par — it went all the way around the cup and started on a second rotation before dropping in. He had already let one kick-in putt slip by in his first nine on No. 14.

“The putter blade went in and under going back, and it was going to start left all the way, so hence I blocked it to try to get it back on line and over-cooked it,” explained Woods. “I did the same thing over on 8, too, same deal. Got to go work on that a little bit.”

Unlike yesterday’s relatively ho-hum two-under 68, Tiger’s second round was more like a rollercoaster ride.

The stats are a bit deceiving. He scrambled quite a bit on his way to posting one-over 71 in the second round at Firestone, where he’s won seven titles.

While he found more fairways than yesterday, he needed two more putts.

“I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday, and consequently, I just never got the round going,” said Tiger.

And he continued to have some problems with his distance control because he’s not used to hitting it so “flush.”

“I’m just having a hard time judging distance as it is,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball so much farther. As I said yesterday, I got so much more compression, the ball is just going, and I’ve just got to get used to that and trust the number. I’m hitting the ball numbers I’ve never hit before.”

On the par-4 6th, Tiger drove it in the right rough. He punched out, and as the ball traveled to the green, he gestured with his hand for it to slow down. No chance. It was hot coming out of the rough and rolled through the green and into the greenside bunker.

Um, flushed?

Well, along with having trouble with distances, it was going to be tough to control the ball hitting out of the rough (can’t spin it). After a poor bunker shot that rolled off the green to the fringe, he three-putted for a double-bogey. Ouch. But that was the story of the day. He scrambled for pars, made mistakes that led to bogeys, and then followed that by rolling in 20-footers. Just as you thought he was starting to find his rhythm, he’d give away another stroke.

Despite what the scorecard reads, he’s still swinging it much better. It looked smooth and compact, and his irons were solid, especially on the par-3s.

“I know my stats don’t show it, but just the way I’m driving the golf ball — the start lines are so much tighter, and the shape of the shots is so much tighter,” said Woods. “Just like B (old pal and temp caddie Bryon Bell) and I were talking out there, I’m so close to putting the ball on a string, so it’s coming.”

You know, I actually believe him this time. But we also know great ballstriking isn’t enough to post low scores and win tournaments — that happens around the greens, an area where Tiger excelled and dominated pre-hydrant era.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)