On final practice day, all systems go for Tiger Woods

On final practice day, all systems go for Tiger Woods

PGA Tour

On final practice day, all systems go for Tiger Woods

NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas – So far, so good for the Tiger Woods comeback train. Wednesday at the Hero World Challenge at Albany brought the pro-am, and on a windswept morning, Woods showed that he still has all the shots.

He hit the ball solidly, drove it very well, and even made a couple of eagles in reaching a pair of par-5 holes on his front nine. Don’t worry, we’re not about to declare him back yet. But as small steps go, Woods appears to be healthy, and his golf game appears to be in pretty decent shape after nearly 16 months away from competition.

“You know, I felt good with pretty much everything,” he said. “I was be able to hit all the shots I needed to hit.”

Woods made eagle-3 at the 572-yard, par-5 third, holding a nice 3-iron up against the wind and converting from about 8 feet left of the hole. At the 603-yard ninth, also playing downwind, Woods covered a left-side bunker at 295 yards, his tee shot bounding well down the fairway. Facing only 210 yards to the front of the green, he hit 6-iron to 10 feet.

Maybe more impressive were some of the low, laser-like long irons he hit into the teeth of the wind on a few of Albany’s difficult par 3s, such as the eighth, playing about 230 yards, where he knocked a tee shot 12 feet past the flag and missed the putt.

Woods’ speed was off some on the greens, which, in fairness to him, partly was due to the greens getting only a single cut to help out the amateurs in the field. It took Woods quite a few tries to consistently get his putts to the holes, and it was one part of his game he said he’d work on Wednesday afternoon. But game-wise – though yes, it was just a pro-am – Woods was impressive for a guy who hasn’t played in a tournament in nearly a year and a half.

Now we’ll see if Woods, winner of 79 PGA Tour titles and 14 majors, can take the same relaxed rhythm and tempo into tournament play. On Thursday at noon, alongside Patrick Reed, Woods will tee it up with a scorecard in his pocket for the first time since the 2015 Wyndham Championship.

“It’s tough when you haven’t played for that long in a tournament, it’s hard to simulate tournament conditions,” said 2015-16 PGA Tour player of the year Dustin Johnson. “Not conditions, but just tournament mindset when you’re at home practicing. But I know he’s practiced a lot, so he’s going to be ready.

“Whether he’ll win or not, that’s a whole different feat. I predict he’ll do pretty well.”

The only bad part to Woods’ day on Wednesday? He forgot to bring a pair of sunglasses on a sunny day in paradise, and after five hours on the golf course, said he’d been squinting so much he was starting to get a headache.

He won’t make the same mistake come Thursday.

“Live and learn,” he said.

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