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    10 sights and sounds from Tiger Woods’ first spherical again

    Tiger Woods completed his opening spherical on the Genesis in fashion.

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    PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — By the point Tiger Woods rattled dwelling his birdie putt on Riviera’s 18th, the solar had disappeared behind the hills. The temperature had dropped into the mid-50s. The crowds had thinned, too, leaving solely the heartiest (and best-jacketed) to roar on the marquee trio of Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

    They have been rewarded for his or her perseverance when all three reached the 18th inexperienced and rolled of their birdie tries, one after one other after the following, sending a cost by the assembled.

    For the match host, the ultimate putt meant a gap spherical of two-under 69, ok for T27. The day was an unconditional success for Woods, who was enjoying his first stroke-play spherical for the reason that Open Championship final July.

    So what did we study from watching? In brief, there’s loads to be inspired by. Listed below are 10 sights, sounds, stats and ideas from his return.

    1. Woods’ pace is there.

    The common driver ball pace on the PGA Tour is 172 mph. On Thursday, Woods hit driver 10 occasions — and blew previous that 172 quantity each time. He hit no less than 177 mph on his final 9 drives and peaked at 180 mph on each No. 3 and No. 13.

    That’s speedy for anybody on Tour and significantly spectacular given Woods is 47 years outdated and made partly of steel. It’s additionally essential to his probabilities. Clearly Woods wants extra than simply excessive ball pace to play good golf. However he wants pace to have an opportunity. He’s acquired it.

    2. His strolling is best — up to now.

    I talked to Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, after their pro-am spherical on Wednesday. Woods had regarded and felt fairly good, all issues thought of, however LaCava was taking a wait-and-see method. Since Woods’ return to golf final 12 months, he has regarded comparatively good throughout follow rounds however has felt his physique deteriorate all through the week.

    Eventually 12 months’s Masters, as an example, Woods used his driver like a strolling stick throughout Sunday’s ultimate spherical. He was so beat up by three rounds on the PGA that he withdrew.

    On Thursday, Woods walked with a limp that acquired barely worse because the spherical went on. He was keenly conscious of his ankle, taking off his shoe at No. 12 to make an adjustment. However he was nonetheless pacing across the inexperienced and studying from each angle as he poured in his birdie putt on the par-5 seventeenth.

    3. A flighted driver was his shot du jour.

    Woods’ tee shot of selection was a low runner that maximized distance alongside Riviera’s agency fairways. He referred to these tee pictures as “cheater flighted ones” and was self-deprecating about his distance, however there have been a number of occasions — together with on the 18th — that he edged previous each enjoying companions.

    “I put my driver up a click on in loft initially of the week. I may need to show it again down once more,” McIlroy mentioned. “I don’t like him hitting it by me.”

    4. He was thrilled — and stunned — by the crowds.

    When Woods made his 24-footer on the seventeenth inexperienced, the roar that went up appeared a lot louder — and extra intense — than the variety of individuals in attendance ought to have been in a position to produce. The pin was lower within the back-left part of the inexperienced, tucked near the grandstands, and he grinned as they chanted his identify.

    “It was lots louder than I had — I haven’t performed in a match in a very long time,” he mentioned, including he felt some guilt about not acknowledging the followers extra. “I didn’t actually search for as a lot as I in all probability ought to have, however I used to be attempting to calm myself down all day, attempting to determine what the hell I’m doing out right here as a result of I haven’t performed.”

    5. He relished the Tremendous Group.

    The much less he’s out right here, the extra Woods talks about how a lot he relishes the camaraderie of being on Tour. That was very true Thursday, when he was paired with shut pals Thomas and McIlroy. The day’s ultimate gap was additionally its greatest, by far, given the trio’s birdies.

    “I believe it’s the group,” Woods mentioned of his post-round grin. “JT hoops one in there and Rory’s been beating us all day. He’s nervous as might be as a result of he didn’t wish to be the one to overlook on 18.

    “I didn’t wish to be the fool host to overlook it proper in entrance of all people after I simply went birdie-birdie. These are all issues that all of us say amongst one another, however clearly individuals don’t hear it, however caddies hear it, all of us hear it.

    “It was an excellent spherical. The ebb and move of needling one another, encouraging one another and telling tales. As a result of I hadn’t been out right here so I’ve missed a few of the issues which have transpired on Tour, which is sort of enjoyable.”

    6. The scholar has grow to be the grasp.

    Maybe the very best back-to-back pictures the group mustered all day got here at No. 5, the place Thomas and Woods had every missed the inexperienced in difficult positions. First, Woods hit a 35-yard bunker shot — a clumsy distance, even for the professionals — that trickled out to 6 toes. Then Thomas performed a intelligent low runner that scooted alongside the bottom, over a hill and up onto the inexperienced, leaving himself an analogous putt. There’s no query Woods and Thomas have every strengthened every others’ quick video games throughout chipping classes in South Florida, and Thomas’ array of short-game pictures is paying homage to his {golfing} hero. Each made well-earned pars.

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    7. Woods’ well being has been “a shifting goal.”

    Requested if he’s made any changes, Woods might solely nod. His ankle is “lots smaller than it has been,” he mentioned. He has felt adjustments to his leg and his ankle. He’s adjusted his footwear and socks consequently.

    “All the pieces’s a shifting goal,” he mentioned. “How a lot I’m on my toes, how a lot I’m not, how energetic I’m, the muscle tissue which are on or off. It’s a shifting goal on a regular basis.”

    My hope is that he already survived the best menace to his well being this week: Considered one of his pro-am companions had a deadly case of the shanks. Hold your head on a swivel, gang!

    8. His recreation had no severe holes.

    Woods hit it properly, gaining strokes on the sphere off the tee and on his method pictures. The strongest a part of his recreation — thanks largely to the final three holes — was his placing, the place he gained 1.8 pictures, nineteenth within the area. He regarded rustiest across the greens, dropping a shot to the sphere and looking out only a spark off. However there was nothing about Woods’ recreation that instructed he wouldn’t have the ability to play one other good aggressive spherical now that he’s logged his first of 2023.

    9. He was happy with the way in which he completed.

    Halfway by the again 9, it regarded as if Woods could also be doomed for a mediocre spherical, one thing like one- or two-over par, organising a Friday race to the lower line. His three closing birdies modified that dynamic instantly; now he can enter the second spherical together with his sights set on the highest of the leaderboard — Max Homa, at seven below — fairly than the lower line.

    “Final 12 months you noticed it — I didn’t end off the rounds proper,” Woods admitted post-round. “These are issues that I hadn’t achieved and I hadn’t performed an entire lot, so I used to be chastising myself fairly laborious coming off of 12 saying, hey, we’ve acquired to essentially get this factor going.

    “I didn’t know the way we have been going to do it after hitting a foul tee shot on 13, however let’s simply someway determine it out and determine find out how to piece collectively one thing round even par, one-under par. And simply occurred to get three in a row coming in.”

    10. Ice is coming.

    McIlroy talked about that he was headed to the vary post-round to hit some drivers.

    “I’ll be proper behind you,” Woods mentioned, joking.

    He regarded spent by the tip of his media obligations, limping off into the locker room. He admitted that he was a little bit sore already. Now comes a fast turnaround earlier than his 7:24 a.m. Friday tee time. Which means numerous icing.

    “As quickly as I get again to the lodge, it’s simply icing and remedy and icing and remedy, simply hit repeat all through the entire night time,” he mentioned. “Prepare, warmed up tomorrow, get this large sweat occurring, large elevate within the morning and keep heat and get off to an excellent begin on 10.”

    He didn’t point out the phrase “sleep” in there. However I’m drained simply occupied with it.

    One good spherical within the books. Woods hopes there are three extra to go.

    Dylan Dethier

    Dylan Dethier Editor

    Dylan Dethier is a senior author for GOLF Journal/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams Faculty, the place he majored in English, and he’s the creator of 18 in America, which particulars the 12 months he spent as an 18-year-old dwelling from his automotive and enjoying a spherical of golf in each state.

    #sights #sounds #Tiger #Woods