Tiger Woods rules the range but struggles in return to competitive golf
Tiger Woods proclaims his first competitive round since August ‘weird’ and hopes to shake the rust off his shaky short game with more practice.
Scrutiny of Tiger Woods’ motion with the biggest club in his bag blossomed into a booming cottage industry for analysts like Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee in the four years the former world No. 1 spent under the tutelage of swing guru Sean Foley.
So it was rather a shock to, well, probably everyone in the golf world who tuned in on Thursday to Woods’ return to competition from a four-month, injury-related furlough, that it was his hideous chipping and pitching, more than his driving, that derailed Tiger’s much-anticipated comeback at the Hero World Challenge.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 4, 2014
“It certainly is surprising that I could hit chips that poorly,” Woods said after scuffling to an opening-round 5-over 77 and solo DFL in the field of 18 on an Isleworth track he knows so well he set a course-record 59 on it almost two decades ago.
But that was then and this is now, and the nearly 39-year-old golfer who flew his first meaningful tee shot since August into a former neighbor’s back yard to kick off his latest comeback seemed afflicted by the same performance anxiety that was center stage at Valhalla.
Tiger’s rustiness understandable but the chunked chips? 4 of them. He should be able to hit those blind folded. Very strange
— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) December 4, 2014
Rust, adjustment to a “new, but old” swing, the guidance of yet another swing coach, or even the new sticks in his bag all may have played roles in Woods’ disappointing exploits. But more concerning was the growing sense that Tiger can bend his clubs to his will in practice, but loses his swing and/or confidence somewhere between off-stage and the arena.
“My swing was dialed in on that range out there,” Woods said after shooting a 3-over 74 in the first round of the PGA Championship. “Unfortunately, I didn’t carry it to the golf course.”
Despite his curtain-opening OB and that dreaded two-way miss that resulted in an outgoing 41, Woods’ overall stroke, which garnered oohs and aahs earlier in the week, earned kudos from even his harshest critic.
“The golf swing, in my opinion, looked vastly better than earlier this year,” Chamblee said after Woods finished his round.
But it was his god-awful short game that caused serious virtual head-scratching in the Twitter-verse.
Tiger now has flubbed 4 chips on 3 holes. They must not have deep collections areas at medalist.
— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) December 4, 2014
The way Tiger is playing I believe him that he’s been a soccer dad for the past 4 months. #DoubleBogeyBlues +5 thru 8.
— Adam Schupak (@GolfweekSchupak) December 4, 2014
Afterward, it was back to drills for Woods, whose four atrocious wedge shots heartened 20-handicappers everywhere.
“It’s not from lack of practice,” claimed the winner of 14 major championships who, observers might surmise, should be able to put into play what works so well in rehearsals, even if the conditions vary.
“I just hadn’t faced grain this thick around the greens,” Woods said. “We keep my short-game area pretty tight and those shots I feel pretty comfortable with. When I got to a little stickier, longer grass, into the grain, a little sandy, I hit terrible chips, and thats something I need to work on when I get home.”
And then, somehow, bring it to work, where the tourney host trails frontrunner Jordan Spieth by 11 shots.
Tiger’s return to golf: A 5-over 77 at the Hero World Challenge. Currently last in 18-man field. And we’ll see YOU at the practice area!
— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) December 4, 2014