GOLF

Tiger's return proves safe, if a little tame

Playing competitively for the first time in three months, Woods is happy with the way his body is responding - now he needs to up his game

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 10:39pm
AP

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This much could be said about Tiger Woods and his return to competition - at least he has his health.

And that might be as important as his score.

Woods competed for the first time in more than three months in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, and it showed. He opened with back-to-back bogeys. He made five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch around the turn. And then he rallied with three birdies over the last six holes for a three-over 74.

Adrenaline is rushing, and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. Try to get the numbers, try to get the feels
Tiger Woods 

That left him eight shots behind Greg Chalmers, who made only one bogey in his round of 66 to build a one-shot lead after the opening round.

"I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively," Woods said. "You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff, but it's just not the same. It's not the same as tournament golf - different level.

"Adrenaline is rushing, and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. Try to get the numbers, try to get the feels. Didn't start happening until midway through my front nine."

As for his back? He had surgery on March 31 to alleviate a pinched nerve. He moved around without any sign of pain.

"I had no issues at all," Woods said. "No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic.

"The score is not really indicative of how I played. I had four up-and-downs right there on 15 through to 18 [his sixth-through-ninth holes] and didn't make any of them. I had an easy pitch on No 2. Didn't get that up-and-down. Had a wedge in my hand on three, and I jerk it in the bunker. I made so many little mistakes. So I played a lot better than the score indicated."

Woods hit the ball fine off the tee, particularly his driver on two of the longer holes - the par-four 11th (489 yards) and the par-five 16th (579 yards). He was on the fringe about 50 feet away on No 11 and left his first putt 18 feet short, leading to bogey.

He was just short of the green on the 16th, hit a good chip-and-run to six feet and missed that for birdie.

Woods missed two par putts from about six feet. He did not make a putt over 10 feet. "That's all I've been doing is chipping and putting," Woods said. "I hit some bad shots. Those are bad pitches, and those are the ones I should get up-and-down every time."

Woods said while his back felt fine and he had hit all the shots at home, he might not have played this week if the Quicken Loans National (a new title sponsor this year) at Congressional did not benefit his foundation's work with children.

Woods has missed two majors this year, and probably felt as though he made up for it at Congressional.

Jason Day said the course played harder than it did for the 2011 US Open, where Day was a runner-up. Only 26 players from the 120-man field broke par in the opening round.

Associated Press, The Washington Post