On a day where he admittedly didn’t do anything great, Tiger Woods managed to shoot three-under 69 at Bay Hill, where he’s won six times, and put himself in good position on the leaderboard in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He made four birdies and one bogey, and left a few shots out there with two three-putts (you know, pretty standard these days).
Overall, Woods seemed pleased with his game and in good spirits. He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t terrible. He didn’t have too many memorable shots — the only one that stands out was his second on the par-5 No. 12. After pushing his tee shot in the right rough behind a small tree, Woods, who had 269 yards to the pin, hit 3-wood short of the green, letting it run up between the bunkers and on the green to 45 feet.
From all reports and my personal observations, if you weren’t accurate off the tee and missed fairways, you were putting yourself behind the eight ball. The ball was launching out of the heavy rough at Bay Hill, making it difficult to judge and control the distance.
Once again, Tiger’s ballstriking was solid, hitting nine fairways and 14 greens, yet he needed 32 putts. Yawn.
“I was just solid all day,” said Tiger in his post-round media scrum. “I drove the ball well. Hit my irons decent and putted all right. I had two 3-putts, but also made a couple bombs out there. It’s just one of those days where not a lot going on.
“(Without the three-putts) I would have shot 5-under par without hitting it real close. I took something off most of my drives today. I didn’t really feel great with my tee shots but I was getting the ball in play. Ball is flying forever. Normal drives go about 310 or something like that. It was kind of nice.”
Like I said, the ball is coming out hot.
Today was Tiger’s fifth consecutive day playing golf — it’s not usually such a hardship unless you’re an injury-plagued 14-time major champ who recently had to withdraw from the WGC-Cadillac Championship because of a minor strain in his left Achilles tendon– but he says he hasn’t encountered any problems or pain since he limped off Doral.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’ve been getting treatment. Everything’s good. No swelling. If I can just keep it that way, everything will be great.”
This past Sunday Woods took a day trip to Augusta for an early practice round and to scout out the tweaks to the greens that were made since the last Masters.
“It was typical Augusta non-championship week,” said Tiger, referring to his round at Augusta. “It’s a bit slower, a little bit more wet. It played really long. Come tournament time it changes from Wednesday to Thursday.”
This event is Tiger’s last start before the first major of the year, the Masters, which kicks off in two weeks. And we know how Tiger really only cares about four tournaments a year, and this is obviously one of them. Despite the Achilles-injury scare, he’s still considered a favorite to take home the green jacket, which would be his fifth.
Meanwhile, Charlie Wi and Jason Dufner shot impressive six-under 66s in difficult conditions. (Check out the scores — they’re some pretty big numbers.)
Wi hasn’t historically played well at Bay Hill since it favors bombers.
“Missed the cut, missed the cut, withdrew, 24th last year,” Wi said, referring to his past finishes at the event.
Believe it or not — he even left some shots out there. Wi had a few 12-13 footers for eagle, which he missed.
“Did (your caddie) Mark (Urbanek) misread them?” I asked, .
“Yeah, it’s his fault,” Wi cracked. “No, of course not.”
You see, Mark is definitely one of the top three of five — if not the best — green reader among the caddie corps. I ran into him last week at Innisbrook’s Island course and ended up playing with him and a few of his buddies. He lined up all my putts (no, not the obnoxious way from behind — he just pointed the “ProV1” line to where I should hit it and with the exception of one long, curving downhill putt, I think he read the rest perfectly. It’s been a long time since I putted as well as I did last Saturday!
Alright, that’s it for now.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)