Jan
27
2017
Time to fire up Air Car One, brah…?
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

I didn’t want to say it before the first round finished. I didn’t want to get attacked and called a “Tiger hater,” even though that’s never a good reason not to write and/or publish anything — more accurate would be “feel like.” I wanted to give him a chance. Now, only ONE official round has been posted for Tiger Woods in 2017, so…wait for it, GIVE HIM A CHANCE. It’s early! It’s only been one round! Let the guy get his feet under him and some reps before we’re too quick to write him off.

For the love of God. I’m in my seventh year at this, and trust me, I’ve been there and I know how it feels to hope and want something (or someone) to go back to what it once was SO badly because that nostalgia and that AWESOMENESS that went along with it was SO FREAKING GREAT.

But, I’m sorry, I don’t think we can make Tiger great again. He was once great and he is great, but he’s not the same guy at Torrey Pines that he was nearly a decade ago when he won the friggin’ U.S. Open on one leg.

I’m not a Tiger hater. Guess what? When Tiger is playing and thriving, more people care; more people read websites, blogs, anything; more people follow! It’s actually in my best interest that Tiger goes on to win five more majors and break Jack Nicklaus’ record. By the way, most people act on those, except I’m not one of *those* people. Usually.

“I was fighting out there trying to get my ball around the golf course and score,” said

When everyone with the internet surmised their best guess for TW’s first-round score, I was generous and threw in a 75. Torrey’s South Course is really hard and the rough is super thick and it just didn’t feel like the ideal place for Tiger to play his first competitive round in 2017. I KNOW HE’S WON THERE EIGHT TIMES, INCLUDING THIS EVENT SEVEN TIMES. But that was then before the bad back and all that other scar tissue — he was in his early 30s and it was pre-back surgeries (not to mention the knees and other ailments he picked up along the way), this is now.

Look, there’s a 12 hour time difference between San Diego and Oman, so I didn’t stay up and watch for several reasons, but like I keep saying, I’ve seen this show a dozen or more times now and I know how it ends. There might be glimpses and even high points, but we will never go back to pre-2009 Tiger.

From the highlights his swing looks a bit better — it’s smoother. Problem is, he’s not finding the fairways. Distance is clearly no longer an advantage for him. His iron game looks potentially very strong and possibly “great,” but tough to judge right now when he’s not getting it into play off the tee. His downswing isn’t much worse than post-2008 than it appears at the moment.

Why isn’t he driving it well or accurately? Well, most experts will say he’s not opening up properly, but he didn’t open up fully when he was at his best. So that’s kind of hard to use as a reason, but it might help now because he’s probably not as flexible. It looks like a lot of work for him to get the club around on the right path.

It might take Tiger a few more months to change the driver swing, but it’s best done with swinging slower, which appears to be what he’s been doing. Perhaps he wants the shoulders to open up, so the temptation is to try and move them as fast as possible, but that’s not helping him at the moment. He’s lost nearly all the tilt to the right on the way down, which gives him no chance to hit straight drives.

But that’s just from watching it 10,000 miles away.

“I was excited to see how he was going to play,” said world no. 1 Jason Day, who took up golf after reading one of Tiger’s early books. “Having 17 months off is a very long time. I think everyone was kind of anticipating what the comeback would look like…

“You can’t break down everything he did today, because it’s been 17 months. Let him play and go from there. You can’t panic too much at the start of the year.”

Day has become one of Tiger’s “best friends” (described by TW). It doesn’t seem long ago that Day was watching his hero and waking up at dawn to practice as a schoolboy. Or even when he had made it to the PGA Tour and admired Woods from afar (when he was less approachable). Perhaps it’s one of those times to invoke the “when the student becomes the master…” quote.

Well, good news! Tiger’s off to a better start in the second round on Torrey’s (easier) North Course, with a birdie on his first, the par-5 10th. Woot! Oh no, but he dropped a shot on the par-3 12th. Now that’s my cue for lights out. I’ll find out what happens in the morning, but won’t keep my fingers crossed.

There’s always next week and it’s a long flight half way around the world to the United Arab Emirates from the West Coast of the United States. In fact, it takes around 17 hours, 20 minutes, to fly from San Diego to Dubai. I’m sure Big Cat One is already warming up and ready for take-off in T-5 hours. In the long run, he might see it as a blessing in disguise for two extra days to get adjusted to the 12-hour time difference, especially if he plays well next week at the Desert Classic.

I know one thing’s for sure: The older you get, the harder it is for your back to deal with long flights (even if you’re flying private–not that I’d know, but not a super hot take) and to adjust to the jet lag (not that TW sleeps, anyway).