Tiger’s swoosh splash
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Teeing off the 10th at 7:25 on Thursday morning, Tiger Woods got off to a gloomy start, but managed to turn it around and finish with an even-par 70 (T61).

He opened the first nine with two bogeys and then battled back, rolling in two birdies on Nos. 3 and 7, but the highlight of the day (and the shot we’ll see over and over — including in the video above) was his par save on No. 6, where he pulled a “Se Ri Pak.” 

Woods’ ball was partially submerged in the water hazard, so he took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his trousers and put on waterproofs to hit the shot, and successfully pulled it off. With a 9-iron in his hands, he laid up to 81 yards back in the fairway, instead of taking a penalty shot and drop. From there, he knocked a 60-degree wedge to about 10 feet and completed the unlikely par-save.

“How about that,” said Woods, smiling after signing his scorecard.

Had he not pulled off the risky shot, he might not have been so upbeat at the end of the day.

“I was 1-over at the time, and if that ball is not playable from where it’s at, where I caught was pretty far back,” said Tiger in the media scrum outside of the scoring trailer behind the 9th green. “I would have had to have dropped where I couldn’t even get an angle in the first cut and had to drop in the primary and had to lay up and didn’t get that up-and-down  looking at a six, 3-over, and all of a sudden I flip it, make par there and birdie the next.  Could easily have been three, but all of a sudden I’m even.”

When asked about the difficulty of the 10th hole, he uttered an, “Oh my God, it’s a hard hole!”

Woods said he played better than he scored, which was not a surprising assessment since he finished strong.

“That’s the thing, I hit the ball well today and on top of that, I hit good putts but unfortunately I didn’t get the feeling of this grain today,” said Tiger when asked about his mindset going into the second round.

“It was either snagging or I would blow through it top side.  I just didn’t quite have it just right.  I hit so many putts right around the edge that just were not going in.  Just stick with what I’m doing because it’s not very far off.”

Well, the forecast for Friday will hopefully brighten up because as of now, it looks like we’re in for a gloomy and wet rest of the week.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy had a lackluster Thursday, which was pretty ho-hum. From 105 yards on the par-5 18th, the world No. 1 hit his wedge shot over the green and ended up bogeying to match Tiger’s 70.

On the other hand, things are looking better for Camilo Villegas, who finished outside of the top-125 on the money list last season. The 2010 Honda Classic champion was granted one of the coveted sponsor’s invite, his third of the year — and he has six more lined up already so far: Puerto Rico, Tampa, Bay Hill, Hilton Head, Quail Hollow, New Orleans and Colonial, which is basically a full schedule.

For the first time since he won here at PGA National three years ago, Villegas took the outright lead when he rolled in his eagle putt on No. 18 to shoot a six-under 64.

“At times it was tough to enjoy it, at times, but I’ve got to say, I’ve been working with Darren May at Bear’s Club, and we have been doing a lot of great work,” said Villegas, who leads by one over Brendan Grace, Graham Delaet, Rickie Fowler and Robert Streb. “I’m enjoying my practice, spending a lot of time out there and trying to get better.  It’s good.

“You know, what you always learn from mistakes, and not that I made mistakes, I just played bad the last year and a half.  It’s a little reality check, nothing wrong with that.  It gives you a little bite to come back and be who you know you can be.

He added: “I just didn’t play as good as I did the years before. But guess what, I will — I’ll be back.”