Tiger Woods long and accurate with the driver in sharp Wells Fargo pro-am

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Tiger Woods long and accurate with the driver in sharp Wells Fargo pro-am

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods long and accurate with the driver in sharp Wells Fargo pro-am

CHARLOTTE – The big dog eats first, so Tiger Woods’ golf ball was the first in the air Wednesday morning at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship pro-am.

Woods always gets the first slot on pro-am day and he smacked a drive down the left side of fairway on the 495-yard, par-4 opening hole at 7 a.m. It was chilly enough that breath was still visible and socks grew soggy after just a few steps through the morning dew.

Thus began one of Woods’ best practice rounds of the year.

It’s hard to get an accurate score because Woods will sometimes breeze through par putts or scoop it up if it doesn’t impact the team best ball score, but he shot somewhere around 3 or 4 under.

His group’s best ball score of 15 under was still holding as the best of the day in the early afternoon.

Woods hit 11 of 14 fairways and only missed once with the driver, to the right on the par-4 third. He also missed once right with the 3-wood and once to the left with an iron. He hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation, though two of the misses were good iron shots just short of the green.

“You’ve got to get the ball in the fairway here because we need to have spin coming into these greens,” Woods said. “So the challenge is getting the ball in the fairway so we can control spin. These greens are tough to hit just from the fairway, let alone from the rough, so it’s imperative to get the ball in play.”

The bottom line is that he looked very capable of winning this week on a course he hasn’t played since 2012 with a brand new set of irons in the bag. Caddie Joe LaCava is always even-keeled in his post-round analysis, but he agreed the eye test was accurate.

Woods hit driver on eight holes and with uncharacteristic control, occupying the fairway seven of eight times and putting himself in position to try out those new irons in ideal conditions. He doesn’t need to be that good with the big stick to contend most weeks, but it was definitely a promising sign.

A good but not great round picked up on the back nine, beginning with a birdie at the 208-yard par-3 13th hole. Things were backed up on the 14th tee and Woods had time to conference with Paul Casey, who began his round on No. 10. Rickie Fowler’s group caught up while Woods was still waiting to hit, and more friendly banter ensued.

Woods finally was able to tee off and laced a 3-wood way down the left side of the fairway near the green, where he would get up-and-down for another birdie. His third consecutive birdie followed at the par-5 15th. He pured another drive just short of a fairway bunker about 320 yards out, then hit a 3-wood just off the green on the right side.

Mind you this is a 577-yard hole and Woods reached it in two. Made it look easy. He got up and down from there in front of a large gallery that had gathered under an increasingly productive sun.

Those were the golf highlights from Woods’ round, one which suggest he’s been able to do some good work in the three weeks since he finished T-32 at the Masters.

 

Quail Hollow will play easier than it did for the PGA Championship last August, when it was the hardest course of the season relative to par.

The rough is a bit down and the greens roll a little slower, but make no mistake – this is still a formidable test. The 7,554-yard layout requires big, accurate drives and soft-landing iron shots into the greens.

That Woods was able to tackle it with a bunch of tap-in pars and a three-hole birdie run in just his second go-round here since 2012 means we could be in store for another big weekend with Woods in the hunt.

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