Let’s play some quick word association about Tiger Woods’ first competitive round in more than 15 months, a return that generated curiosity worthy of a new Star Wars film.
If you haven’t heard, Woods shot a 1-over-par 73 that started brilliantly but had an ugly finish.
Let’s go to the words:
Expectations: Given the pre-round expectations were relatively modest, Woods probably exceeded what was expected of him. Vegas had the over-under at 73.5 so if you took the under, you’re a winner – barely.
The good: He birdied four of his first eight holes, which sent Twitter into a frenzy and probably had Golf Channel executives palpitating about the Thursday afternoon ratings. It was just the kind of nerve-settling start Woods needed, particularly the way he hit his iron shots.
The not-so-good: Woods began spraying it on the second nine, spending too much time hitting shots in or around the thick grass that dots the natural areas. That’s where he began to look rusty, like he couldn’t keep the good play rolling.
He hit too many tee shots left including one in the water on the 18th hole. He put four 6s on his card in the last 10 holes. They add up in a hurry.
(RELATED STORY: Watch Tiger discuss Thursday’s round)
Short game: Not great but not bad. A work in progress.
Body language: Tiger looked like Tiger out there. He didn’t wince or limp or rub his back. He slapped at the sand when he hit a bad shot and showed a couple flashes of frustration which suggested the competitive juices were at work. He looked like he was enjoying what he was doing – except for those doubles.
The swing: There was a nice tempo to Woods’ latest new swing. Before his extended time away, there were times when Woods appeared to be laboring to make a powerful swing. He lurched at the ball. There was none of that on display in the Bahamas and he still showed plenty of power.
The takeaway: Encouraging. The first nine holes were far better than the second nine but there were enough good signs to provide optimism for the weekend and beyond. Woods liked the way he fell into “the competitive flow” almost immediately after not playing tournament golf in 466 days.
“If you think about it, I hit it in three bushes and had a water ball today. It could have been something really good,” Woods said after the round. “All in all I feel pretty good. I’m looking forward to another three days.”