Dec
1
2017
Tiger tempers massive hype around his comeback (*Updated)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Even Tiger Woods thinks punters need to chill out with their bets for him to win the 2018 Masters. Before Woods teed off at the 18-player, no-cut Hero World Challenge on Thursday, the odds for the 14-time major champion were set at 50-1 to win at Augusta National. By the time he rounded the front nine on Friday with an impressive five-under 31 at Albany in the second round, the odds for Woods to win the Masters had gone to 15-1.

No doubt Woods impressed once again in just his second competitive round in over 300 days after another long layoff due to injury. He eclipsed his performance from Thursday, posting a solid four-under 68 for a 36-hole total of seven-under. Asked to describe the day in one word, a smiling Woods said, “Successful.”When informed about the apparent hype over his comeback and how far his odds had dropped in just over a day, Woods laughed.

“I guess they’ve got to come up with some kind of story,” said Tiger. I just wanted to go out there and just play, compete. As I told you guys earlier this week, didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t played, I hadn’t competed, I haven’t had a fused back before in my life. These are all new things. As you can see that even with the fused back, I still have some speed out there and these are all things I’ve had to learn and will continue to learn. This is a new body that I’m getting used to.”

In other words, calm the f-bomb down, everyone. Let’s not get too far ahead of Tiger’s latest comeback. No doubt what we’ve seen from Woods the past two days has been very encouraging and it’s exceeded expectations, but he’s tried to temper the hype since his presser on Tuesday when he asked for time.

[*Update: To clarify, it’s the bettors that drove down the odds, according to @golfodds: “During his first 3 holes (on Thursday) we were inundated with wagers on the phone app and had to adjust the odds down to slow down action. (Woods) is already leading the Masters ticket count, money wagered and by far, our largest liability … This morning was the same story … I thought I adjusted enough at 25/1, (but) nope, (there has been a) flurry of action his first few holes (on Friday) so went 15/1 to slow it down …It’s still been steady all day.]

Woods has looked really solid the past two days. There has been no sign of any discomfort or pain — he’s not trying to protect his back like he often has the last couple of years and he’s swinging freely and confidently.

“No issues at all, none,” said Woods when asked about how his body held up. “That’s one of the reasons I went out and played nine straight days before back home and down here as well. My body’s accustomed to playing. It’s a little different playing obviously tournament golf with tournament speed and hitting certain shots, but the body’s good.”

But back to hype of fans placing bets on Woods to win the Masters. When I retweeted the stat ESPN posted, I added that what we were seeing from Tiger was super encouraging, but let’s calm down and wait for him to compete in a regular full-field event. And of course Woods has been successful at Augusta National, and I like his chances at the Masters than any other tournament. He’s won four green jackets and notched a couple of top-five finishes between 2010 and 2015.

Woods has repeatedly stated that it’s too soon to know how his body will fare in the long term, and even if it holds up well over the next two days, it will take more time to assess.

“It’s going to be a while,” he said. “I mean, this is not something that just happens overnight. I’ve learned a lot of things since my surgeon said go ahead and start swinging full. Still, there’s a lot more to learn.”

Definitely true. The back is a delicate and complicated thing and Tiger’s has endured quite a bit in the last few years with the numerous procedures.

The Masters is still four months away and who knows what could happen in the meantime. We would love to see Woods fist-pumping his way to his fifth green jacket in April, but let’s calm down with the hype. I know Sports Twitter was exploding for the second day in a row with proclamations that “Tiger back!!!”

“I know, it’s pretty neat,” said Woods when asked for his reaction to pro athletes tweeting words of encouragement. “I think it’s very flattering, very humbling that so many people really enjoyed what I’ve done throughout my first 20 years on Tour. I put a few smiles and few excitements into people’s lives, and as an athlete it’s very humbling.”

Indeed, it is exciting.

What’s more, Woods is in contention heading into the weekend, trailing solo leader Charley Hoffman (-12) by five shots. Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood are tied for second at nine-under.


Woods hit nine fairways, including seven on the back nine, 13 of 18 greens in regulation and needed 27 putts. His chipping was much improved from the first round, and overall, hard to find much to criticize. Woods struggled a bit with his lag putting a bit — both he and playing partner Henrik Stenson mentioned that it felt like the greens were rolling quite a bit faster than the day before.

“I think it was successful because I went out there and shot 31 on the front nine,” said Woods after posting seven-under at the halfway mark. “I built upon what I did yesterday, I cleaned it up.

“Only thing I really struggled with today was speed of the greens. Henrik and I were talking about it all day is that they seemed to be like a foot faster. I really did struggle getting the speed and I blew most of them well past the hole and made a few coming back. I also missed my share, too.”

Still, Woods only had one three-putt, which came at the par-3 12th. He played a beautiful chip shot from the front of the green to a tucked back right pin on the par-3 17th, knocking it to about 2-3 feet and tapping in for par.

“I didn’t have a shot,” Tiger explained. “Hitting a putt, there’s so much grain. If you look at the early part of that, where I landed the golf ball was into the grain, but on the backside of it was down grain. If I had to putt that, that was all into the grain. It would have chewed it up and then I would have had a hard time figuring out what pace it’s going to be because it came out the other side. Here I could land it, skip it through, then I know exactly what it was going to do after that.”

 


 

Woods wasted no time on Friday, walking in a birdie from five feet on the first hole.

BE RIGHT BACK.

And then Woods rolled in another birdie to tie the lead:

The best shot of the day? The approach into the par-5 9th that set up Tiger for eagle.

“I think the standout shot easily by far was the shot into 9,” said Woods. “That was 265 (yards to the) front, hit up in the air and took something off of it and cut it back into the wind.”

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!

Woods briefly held the solo lead, but Hoffman was on fire, carding TWELVE birdies (and three bogeys) in the second round.

Here’s Tiger’s first blemish on his scorecard of the day, with the three-putt on 12:

Tiger’s chip from the front of the green on the par-3 17th to “save” par.

I don’t think Tiger’s a big fan of the par-4 18th. We’ll have to ask him about it following Saturday’s round. Just a reminder — he holed an eight-footer (under a double rainbow) to save par there on Thursday.

Woods will tee off Saturday alongside defending champion Hideki Matsuyama at 12:53pm. I’d say, get excited, but I know everyone already is.