May
3
2012
Tiger shoots rollercoaster 71 (lots of early fan interaction and no clubs kicked!) [*Update]
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Tiger sticks it out

After an erratic front nine, Tiger Woods managed to salvage a one-under 71. He got off to a rough start and couldn’t garner any momentum early in his round, making three bogeys and two birdies before turning it around with a bogey-free back nine.

Discuss. My ride is going to leave without me. I’ll expand on this post when I return to the hotel.

*Update: There was a joke floating around in the press room after Steve Elling of CBSSports.com received this tweet from @ArabKnight72: “Tiger keeps on missing fairway… Is that also part of his strategy to interact with the fans?” Now that’s funny.

Several players have taken shots at the expense of Tiger and his decision to conduct a video Q&A in lieu of his regular pre-tournament visit to the media center, including Phil Mickelson, who walked in the interview room and said, with a straight face, “Didn’t you guys see my video?” When Hunter Mahan, who often plays practice rounds with Tiger because they are both students of Sean Foley, was asked if he watched it, he deadpanned, “No, but I was going to announce that I’ll only be doing webcasts from now on.”

Onto the golf! From what I saw, it was your average Tiger Woods ho-hum day. He didn’t do anything great, but he was able to scramble his way and shoot a decent score despite not having his A game.

His last start was the Masters, where he finished T40. He wanted to get the momentum kicking early, but he did just the opposite — which he pointed out afterward — making a bogey on the first hole.

“I bogeyed the first hole right out of the gate, so there goes that idea,” said Woods, referring to his hope for a positive start. “You try and build, try and find a rhythm in the round.  It’s a little bit different than being at home, obviously, and I found it probably by the third hole.  I made a nice putt there at the second, and once I was in a rhythm I feel much (more comfortable).”

But as you saw, he turned the momentum into his favor on the back nine, but he said he gave up too many shots on the front and he also didn’t capitalize on the par-5s.

“I didn’t get up‑and‑down a couple times and made a couple bad shots on the wrong side of the hole,” said Woods. “Even on 10, you can’t miss it right, and I missed it right. I’ve just got to play the par‑5s better and obviously miss them on the correct sides. I didn’t do that today.”

However, unlike at the Masters, he was able to make some adjustments out on the golf course and hit the ball better on the back nine.

“The front nine I just missed the ball in the wrong spots, and a couple easy up‑and‑ins,” he said. “It’s something that I just need to take care of tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Tiger had a front-row seat to the clinic Webb Simpson — or “Webby” if you ask TIger — put on Thursday afternoon. Simpson, a member of Quail Hollow, made the most of his home-course advantage, firing a seven-under 65 for a three-way share of the lead with Ryan Moore and Stewart Cink.

“Webby, I’ve gotten to know because of the Presidents Cup,” said Tiger. “We had a good time out there, and Webby put up an unbelievable score, a hole‑out, a big old bomb there at 12.  It was a good day.”

Though he’s six shots back, Woods didn’t let it get away from him, and of course, there are still 54 holes to play. He’s looking forward to the fresh greens on Friday morning because he, along with most of the afternoon wave, said they were pretty bumpy.

“The difficult thing about today, I thought ‑‑ we were talking about this in the group is that the greens looked fast but they putt slow,” said Tiger. “A very interesting combo. But Webby did a good job making 70‑footers.  He only had three putts over 30 feet today, so he did all right…

“He just was grinding out there.  Granted, he putted well, but still, he missed the ball in all the correct spots, which was key.  Even him going for the green at 10, it was marginal if he could get there or not, but he missed it in the left spot and had an easy pitch.”

***

In Tiger-related news, I have a pretty funny anecdote. I was deep in conversation with a very pregnant Ellie Day, Jason Day’s wife, and I had my back turned to the walkway where the players come through when they make their way from the 9th or 18th greens to the scoring and media area. Ellie and I were chatting happily, especially since I hadn’t seen her in months and we were catching up.

Out of nowhere, the expression on Ellie’s face went from cheery to panic and fear, and she said anxiously, “We’re in the way! We’re in the way!” I turned around and I saw Tiger, who had an icy-cold expression on his face, with putter in hand, staring straight ahead like a man on a mission — no eye contact, brisk walk, not happy.

For the record, we weren’t in the way. The space was pretty clear with no one else in our immediate vicinity, but he was heading in our direction. She tried to “protect” me and get me out of so-called harm’s way, but instead she nearly knocked me into Tiger. Luckily, with my super-quick reflexes, I was able to was able to see it coming and twist my body around to miss bumping into him. It was a close call, though!

When the coast was clear, Ellie looked a little shaken yet relieved and said, “Um, that was scary.”

Yep. It was also hilarious after the fact. I wish it had been caught on camera because it was definitely a funny sight, which was confirmed by a colleague, laughing, who saw it all go down.

So that’s your random story of the day.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)