Tiger’s Back but his Game Needs Work

Tiger Woods is back and playing in his own tournament at the Congressional CC in Bethesda, Maryland
Tiger Woods is back and playing in his own tournament at the Congressional CC in Bethesda, Maryland

Let’s start with the good news and that Tiger Woods was back on the PGA Tour for the first time in more than three months on Thursday and said he felt “fantastic.” However, his game is clearly a bit rusty, but that is to be expected even for a man with the talent of Woods.

Woods opened with two straight bogeys, made five more bogeys in a seven-hole span around the turn at tough Congressional and finally found his groove late in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National for a 3-over 74. He is the host of the tournament being held at the beautiful Congressional Country Club, in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Maryland.

The Tiger Woods Foundation and the Wounded Warriors are the two charities that will benefit from this weeks tournament at Congressional. It also marks a sponsor change, since 2006, when Woods established the tournament in “The Nation’s Capital,” AT&T was the company with their name on the marque. But now it is Quicken Loans were happy to put up the $6.5 million purse for the event with Woods as host.

While all eyes were on Woods, Greg Chalmers finished with three straight birdies for a 66 and a one-shot lead over Ricky Barnes and Freddie Jacobson. Defending champion Bill Haas, Patrick Reed, U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton and Tyrone Van Aswegen shot 68. Compton birdied his last four holes.

After back surgery in March, Woods slowly worked back into a practice routine, and though he has played golf with friends, he said there is no match for the adrenaline of tournament golf. Balls go further in tournament play, Woods said, and he was hitting it harder than any practice rounds.

He spoke to the press after his first round yesterday at Congressional:

“The back’s great. I had no issues at all. No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic.”

And his play got better on the back nine. Woods closed with two birdies in his last three holes, getting his score to a more manageable plus three.

“I’ve been off for a while, and I’ve been held back where I just haven’t been able to let it go. Now I’m able to start doing that, try to get my numbers again. That’s always been the challenge.”

Woods was not the only golfer to struggle at Congressional Thursday, not even from his own group. The featured pairing of Woods, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth did not deliver the excellent golf spectators were expecting. Day finished one stroke ahead of Woods at 73, while Spieth matched Tiger’s 74. Spieth, one of the best and youngest players on the PGA Tour, called the course “very difficult” and said that missing fairways is very tough at Congressional due to the thick rough. But he also expects his luck to change.