Rude: Tiger's short game is the obstacle

Tiger Woods, playing for Team Albany, gives the thumbs up at No. 18 on Tuesday. Team Lake Nona defended their Tavistock title, with Team Isleworth in second, Team Quenwood in third and Team Albany in fourth.

Tiger Woods, playing for Team Albany, gives the thumbs up at No. 18 on Tuesday. Team Lake Nona defended their Tavistock title, with Team Isleworth in second, Team Quenwood in third and Team Albany in fourth.

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The first sign this wasn’t the Masters came on the first tee. It wasn’t just that comedic broadcaster David Feherty introduced the players to the gallery. It was also that Feherty wore a black patch over his right eye and had a red-blue fake parrot clipped to his left shoulder.

This was the Tavistock Cup, perhaps golf’s 105th major, not the Pirates of the Caribbean. And Feherty looked even more like a seafarer than usual because of an eye injury suffered on a Utah ski trip last week when he scratched his right eye with his right thumb while, of all things, taking a shower.

“My thumb isn’t even sharp,” Feherty said here at the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. “It’s more like a blunt instrument.”

Regardless, he was diagnosed with a sliced cornea and got medical treatment and the patch after his eye “exploded because of whatever was in the air” Monday on Day 1 of the 10th annual Tavistock, a hit-and-giggle exhibition that raises money for charity and handsomely lines the pockets of touring professionals from four opulent golf clubs in gated communities.

“I’ve got floaters eye,” said Feherty, adding that his condition is not that serious. “At times they’re like a swarm of flies. My problem is, I can’t follow the ball, which means my green-reading probably will improve.”

And so he got a patch from a doctor and had a friend buy the phony parrot for $4 at Walgreens. “I wanted a wooden leg, too, but a parrot was easier to do on short notice,” he cracked.

Speaking of legs, Feherty was at his playful best when introducing Tiger Woods, the golfer with the famous left Achilles.

“Next up, representing Albany, we have a man who owns the island Albany is on – Tiger Woods.” Woods laughed then and when Feherty followed the drive with, “He is able to walk back to his bag under his own steam. He’s OK.”

On Tuesday at Lake Nona, Woods' leg and ball-striking certainly were better than Feherty’s eye. His game drew raves from his playing competitors, even though he was sloppy around the greens and his even-par 72 beat only one player (the slumping Ian Poulter) in the 24-man field.

(Tiger's team finished dead last, with the results being: Team Lake Nona defended their Tavistock title, with Team Isleworth in second, Team Quenwood in third and Team Albany in fourth.)

While smiling and laughing his way around, Woods controlled his ball nicely on full shots. He hit 13 greens in regulation. He hit three or four bad shots – most notably a fanned approach short right at No. 3, a fat punch off sandy waste area at 11 and an errant 3-wood drive at 18 that caught a break. And he showed no effects of a strained left Achilles that caused him to withdraw during a tournament final round nine days earlier.

In other words, this spring’s mild Achilles strain is a lot better than last spring’s mild Achilles strain, which had a part in his playing only nine holes over four months.

“He’s good to go,” caddie Joe LaCava said.

He was talking about the leg. Not the putting.

Woods’ work on the greens has been inconsistent of late. He missed four putts in the range of 5-10 feet and three more from 15. He also hit a couple of substandard pitches from the side of green, finesse shots that ended up 15 feet away from the hole.

And he bogeyed another par 5. Woods bogeyed three of the last six par 5s in his most recent start, at Doral. This is a far cry from his dominator days, when he feasted on the long holes and seemed to go a whole year without a bogey on them. It’s yet another signal that he’s not all the way back.

Woods’ public-relations assistant said the former world No. 1 would talk on Wednesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead of after the Tuesday round. But the men who played with him spoke for him, and in glowing terms about his ball-striking.

“He lost momentum by missing some putts,” said Thomas Bjorn. “But I thought that was the best I’ve seen him swing in a long, long time. He looks and sounds in a good place right now.”

Graeme McDowell stated the obvious when saying Woods “wasn’t his best around the greens,” but added, “I like the way he’s playing. He’s close. He was solid today, hitting cuts when he wanted to hit cuts and draws when he wanted to hit draws.”

Sean O’Hair, who outdrove and laughed with Woods on most holes, also lauded his friend’s hitting of the ball. He was impressed that Woods went at shots hard.

“He seems very comfortable, very at ease with his game,” O’Hair said. “He was hitting it beautifully. The results weren't there, but his game is right there. The intensity will be a little different later this week (at the Palmer).”

Woods should hope his putting is as well. O’Hair, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

“He didn’t make anything, but he started everything on line,” O’Hair said. “Once the putts start going in, confidence will breed success for him.”

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