Tiger Woods is squarely in the hunt.
This comeback stuff has to be way ahead of schedule.
The proof is in his play, his clubs are doing the talking and look at the fact that he basically buried Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson Thursday after the first 18 holes of the Valspar Championship.
It was tough out there at Innisbrook — windy, really windy, chilly, really chilly for Florida and the golf course was treacherous.
We’ll let the man himself describe how it was out there:
“It was really brutal out there. We, as a group, got fooled a lot. Into the wind — it would hit a wall. Downwind — you couldn’t tell what it would do to your angles.”
So said Tiger after he fought hard and put up a first round, sub-par score at a PGA Tour event since August of 2015.
Woods shot 70 thanks to an incredible five-iron tee shot at the difficult 17th. He feathered it in there, called it “a nice little five-iron.” It landed short of the hole and looked like it might go in before it stopped just two feet from the cup. That kick-in birdie followed a vintage Woods recovery at the 16th where his tee shot ended up in the trees well left of the fairway.
On a difficulty scale of 1-10, it looked like an 11.
“I cleared them out to the left in case the club broke,” Woods later said. “It didn’t feel very good,” he said of the moment his left wrist slammed the tree on his follow-through. “But it feels okay,” he added after the round, the sting long gone, no harm done. That shot finished just short of the green and he’d get it up-and-down the way he did in his prime. Super save.
In all, he had five birdies on the day. How good was that?
Consider that Henrik Stenson had none and Jordan Spieth had one, on the very first hole, the easy par five. After that, Spieth struggled to a front-nine 40 and finished with 76. Stenson wasn’t much better with 74. In the morning, Rory McIlroy made just one birdie on his way to 74.
Those big names made Tiger look really good.
And Tiger made Tiger look really good.
“I’m pleased with every aspect of my game,” was how he put it. For his day’s work he hit nine of 18 greens, seven of 13 fairways and the short game was clicking and the putter was used just 25 times. A couple of seven footers for par cost him a really low round.
“I’m getting a little better piece by piece,” Woods said of the overall state of his game. “It feels great.”
Woods performed to a packed house, perhaps the largest Thursday gallery ever at this tour stop. “I don’t know if those people knew how difficult it was today,” Woods said with a wry smile.
He smiled a lot all day. There was a bounce in his step.
“I’m revved up,” he declared.
“I love competing out here.”
And he’s in the thick of the competition. Only seven players are better than him on the scoreboard after the first round.
Tiger will get out early Friday and see if he can do something about that.