LOS ANGELES — The stroll to the Riviera Nation Membership clubhouse from the 18th inexperienced is a steep one. However any ache the smiling Tiger Woods may need felt in his proper ankle appeared soothed by the group chanting his identify close to the outlets surrounding grass auditorium.
Regardless of an harm that also bothers the 15-time main winner as he walks, Woods punctuated his first spherical of aggressive golf in seven months with three birdies on the final three holes to shoot a 2-under 69 on the Genesis Invitational and make his return to the PGA Tour an electrical one.
I did not wish to be the fool host to overlook it proper in entrance of all people after I simply went birdie-birdie, Woods mentioned of his birdie putt on No. 18. It was an awesome spherical.
The enjoyment Woods exuded on the 18th was a fruits of not simply seven months of ready and rehabbing however a becoming finish to a spherical that was something however simple. Over the course of greater than 5 hours, Woods grinded for clutch pars and bounced again from three bogeys to complete with a flurry of classic pictures that modified the complete tenor of his spherical.
Woods advised reporters Tuesday that hitting pictures was not an issue. And on Thursday, he went out and proved as a lot. Off the tee, Woods was routinely hitting the ball over 320 yards (three of his drives went greater than 330 yards) and outdriving each his enjoying companions — Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas — on a couple of holes.
As Woods defined, the way in which the course is about up, it permits him to realize extra distance off the tee due to the roll the ball will get, although he nonetheless needed to regulate to the gap he was getting based mostly on adrenaline alone.
Theres nothing like come recreation time, simply the sensation of the butterflies and attempting to calm all that stuff down, Woods mentioned. Though it is chilly out right here, [the ball] was going even additional than we anticipated. I needed to dial all that again in.
Given his bodily state, there was an expectation that the again 9 could be robust for Woods to endure. And whereas that may have been the case, his recreation improved because the spherical progressed. Drives went farther, strategy pictures had been tighter and putts had been lastly dropping. After making bogeys on the tenth and twelfth holes, Woods made three straight pars earlier than stepping as much as the sixteenth tee and hitting the shot of the day.
Woods arrange on the left aspect of the tee field and carved a 9 iron that light proper and landed pin excessive, 5 ft from the cup. The putt slipped in on the proper aspect and appeared to provide Woods the spark he wanted. Then, he drove a ball 322 yards on the par-5 seventeenth and dropped a 24-foot putt for birdie. It was ok to elicit his first fist pump of the day.
By the point he bought to the 18th inexperienced and had solely about eight ft for this third straight birdie, it virtually felt like a formality. There was no fist pump because the ball dropped, simply a right away salute to the group that had been cheering him incessantly from the primary tee shot.
I used to be attempting to calm myself down all day, Woods mentioned. Making an attempt to determine what the hell I am doing out right here as a result of I have not performed.
Woods return is an encouraging one given his well being. All through the course of his spherical, he nonetheless had a slight hitch in his step as he seemed to restrict the strain on his proper ankle. Throughout a couple of instances within the spherical, Woods eliminated his proper shoe and adjusted his ankle brace and sock. At different instances when he waited to tee off, he tilted his proper foot upwards to stretch it as effectively.
As he wrapped up on the eleventh inexperienced, Woods additionally took a while to use a cream to his decrease proper again.
My ankles loads smaller than it has been. Ive had so many surgical procedures that the ankle simply retains altering, the leg retains altering, Woods mentioned. Sure, the footwear maintain altering, the socks maintain altering. Every little things a shifting goal. How a lot I am on my ft, how a lot I am not, how lively Im, how not lively, the muscle tissue which might be on, theyre off. It is a shifting goal on a regular basis.
Now comes the true check. After ending his spherical previous 5 p.m. native time Thursday, Woods is about to play the second spherical at 7:24 a.m. Friday — a 14-hour turnaround to get his physique prepared for an additional 18 holes in cooler climate. As Woods defined, the time in between will function loads of icing and remedy with the intention to prepare. In the meantime, his enjoying associate McIlroy mentioned hell spend a few of that point hitting the motive force.
I will work on the vary, McIlroy mentioned. I do not like him hitting it by me.
Woods mentioned a lot of what made the spherical pleasing was enjoying alongside Thomas and McIlroy, whore two of his closest mates.
The ebb and circulate of needling one another, encouraging one another and telling tales, Woods mentioned. I hadnt been out right here so Ive missed a few of the issues which have transpired on tour, which is form of enjoyable.
It was evident, at varied moments Thursday, that Woods was having enjoyable being again. It was equally clear, nonetheless, that the enjoyment he confirmed after the spherical stays tied to him performing effectively and, in his thoughts, having an opportunity to win.
That is the one motive why I tee it up, Woods mentioned.