Tiger Woods wasn’t rusty in his return to competitive golf Thursday in the first round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club.
He was nearly catatonic.
For 12 holes he missed fairways and greens, left putts agonizingly short and sent chip shots shockingly long.
After spending 109 days outside the ropes since last playing March 9 and having back surgery March 31, the former world No. 1 looked like he needed quite a few more days to get ready to tackle the best players in the world as he bogeyed seven of his first 12 holes.
Then the sleeping Tiger awoke.
With three of his four birdies coming in his last six holes – all from within four feet – Woods fired a 3-over-par 74 on a stifling, sun-drenched day and didn’t completely shoot himself out of the tournament that benefits his foundation. Equally important was the status of his back, which Woods said was fine.
“The back’s great. I had no issues at all,” said Woods, who won five times last year to boost his career total to 79 but is winless this season. “No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic.”
Woods trails leader Greg Chalmers by eight shots. Chalmers, armed with a new Titleist 915 driver, hit 10 of 14 fairways and needed 25 putts to shoot 66. In a tie for second at 67 were Rickey Barnes and Freddie Jacobson. At 68 were defending champion Bill Haas, Patrick Reed, a two-time winner this season, Tyrone Van Aswegen and Erik Compton, two-time heart transplant recipient who finished in a tie for second at the U.S. Open.
While Woods’ back didn’t bother him, the layoff certainly did in the beginning.
“I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively,” said Woods, who continues to get daily treatment for his back. “You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff but it’s just not the same. It’s not the same as tournament golf.
“Adrenaline is rushing and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. I was trying to get the numbers, trying to get the feels. It unfortunately took a while to get the feel for it.
” … We were all kind of looking to break 80. It was a bit of a fight today for all of us but we all hung in there.”
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SOURCE: USA Today