He used to make it look so very easy.
Now he’s showing everyone what a hard game golf really is.
Tiger Woods worked his behind off all afternoon Thursday at Quail Hollow with a civilized crowd taking in every shot.
Woods was spot on earlier this week when he gave his take on the golf course he hasn’t seen since 2012:
“The golf course is much harder than it used to be — that’s for sure. A lot of those holes have become more stout. The greens are new and they’re pretty springy.”
The truth and nothing but the truth from Tiger.
He showed up with a new set of irons and they were no issue. “I hit the ball fine,” he said after getting it around in even-par 71.
His driver was a lot better behaved. There would be no wild, way off line tee shots. None of those 20-30 yard wayward devil balls. Instead, his patterns were tighter, when he missed fairways, it wasn’t by much. A few bunkers nabbed his drives. At the end of the day, he hit six fairways, a deceiving number, remember, some were just off the short grass in the first cut.
This time the devil was on the greens, new greens, the ones he called “springy” and they were actually firm. It was tough to make a shot check, even wedges.
“I struggled with my speed all day,” Woods admitted. “The greens were slow. I struggled with my feel.”
That was evident in the putts he missed. His first bogey came early at the fifth where he three-putted from the front fringe. He made up for it with a two-hole run at seven and eight. He laid up on the par five seventh, hit his third to eight feet and made it then made an eye-opening 27-footer at the par four eighth that got the crowd going and got Woods into red figures.
Things went a bit south for him at the 10th, the par five, easiest hole on the course. His drive caught a left-side fairway bunker. He laid up to 147 yards then hit a stinker of a wedge that he basically whiffed, leaving himself well short and right of the putting surface. His pitch left him seven feet for par and he missed. A really, really bad bogey on an easy par five. He frown on his face told the story as he headed to the next tee.
It would be struggle in from there but Woods struggled nicely. He had it in full Tiger grind.
He got himself back into the red at the par five 15th with a big drive, a decent second that was a bit right but a sweet chip to four-feet.
He stumbled at 16 with an ugly three-putt from 16 feet. He made up for it with a bomb of an 18-footer for a par save at 17 then at 18, a brilliant second from another fairway bunker left him inside 10 feet to shoot 70. Another miss — the story of his day.
It was a struggle on the greens but he was upbeat.
“I feel like I’ve played my way into playing shape,” he declared. “Now I’m just trying to get a little better.”
He was already sizing up the leaderboard after his day was over.
“It’s gonna be stacked up,” he said, giving a prediction of what could transpire over the next 54 holes. “There could be 15 guys with a chance to win on Sunday.”
It would be very cool if he was one of them.