What I Saw: Tiger’s Return
By Peter Santo
Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf on Thursday in his first round since finishing T10 in the 2015 Wyndham Championship and in what was by far the most publicized December round in the history of professional golf.
It was a perfect venue for his return, a wide open course at an event where he is the host. The crowds are also significantly smaller than typical Tiger crowds due to the event’s location in the Bahamas. Woods hit the ball better than I expected, distance control on his irons was very solid, and he hit some great shots. However his score was about what you’d expect for his first competitive round in 15 months, a one-over par 73.
While the score leaves Woods in 17th place out of 18 players (one ahead of Justin Rose who shot 74), there were a lot of positives to take from the round. The main question coming into the day centered around Woods’ touch around the greens. While Woods’ highly publicized chipping struggles don’t seem to be gone completely, he hit some excellent pitch shots on Thursday.
However Woods also struggled around the greens, he hit a pitch shot well past the hole on the 16th, leading to a double bogey.
Another thing we were all wondering coming in was how would Woods fare with the driver. Woods surprised me by hitting almost exclusively draws on Thursday. I can’t remember the last time I saw Woods’ path so far in to out on the downswing. It looked to me like he was having trouble controlling the club face, he was closing the club face too much, causing him to pull the ball to the left.
Before the long layoff, I had grown accustomed to seeing Woods aim very far to the right and hit a big cut in order to keep the ball in play. It looked as if Woods switched to more of a draw shape in an effort to gain more distance.
Woods missed the fairway to the left on numerous occasions on Thursday, including on the 18th hole where he found the water, which led to yet another double bogey.
Many of us including myself were wondering what Tiger would say about a round that had a lot of positives, but was a mixed bag in many ways.
“I hit the ball in three bushes and a water ball today. It could’ve been something really good today. I made some mistakes, I didn’t play the par 5s well in the middle of the round and got it going the wrong way,” Woods told Golf Channel’s Damon Hack after the round.
“All in all I feel pretty good and I’m looking forward to three more days,” Woods said.
We are too Tiger, we are too. Tiger will be back at it tomorrow at 11:12 AM alongside Justin Rose, we’ll all be watching.