Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson overshadows slow start in Round 1 of Northern Trust

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Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson overshadows slow start in Round 1 of Northern Trust

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson overshadows slow start in Round 1 of Northern Trust

PARAMUS, N.J. – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are going to play in Las Vegas for an absurd amount of money on Thanksgiving weekend. Woods’ team confirmed it via Twitter Wednesday ahead of the Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club.

That news was more exciting than Woods’ uneventful even-par 71 Thursday to start the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and he was asked about it after the round.

“We’re going to have fun doing something that’s never been done before,” Woods said. “Trying to showcase golf and showcase golf in a different way.”

He referenced the fact that he’s a -180 betting favorite, a sign that even the Tiger’s of the world don’t have to reference odds with a wink and a smile anymore now that sports gambling is legal. That’s a great thing for golf, and the dynamic with his old rival Phil and the spectacle of it all is too good to pass up.

It’s going to be a ton of fun and it will definitely showcase golf in a different way.

That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a contrived event that will never come close to matching the organic electricity in the air Sunday at Bellerive during the final round of the PGA Championship.

Days like that are what elevate the game right now, plain and simple. And Woods has a chance to showcase the game of golf like that every time he tees it up.

Despite the disappointing opening round, Woods can still create a similar atmosphere come Sunday. He opened with an even-par 70 at the PGA Championship and was six shots off the leading going into Round 2. He turned it up with a 4-under 66 in a rain-interrupted Round 2 that gave him the chance to do what he did in the final round, which turned into the biggest party St. Louis has seen all summer.

The hangover finally settled in around 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The sun was a little too bright for comfort, shoes and socks remained soggy from morning showers and Woods didn’t have anything going. His birdie try at No. 4, his 15th hole of the day, blew by the hole and he walked in a par putt of significant length to mild applause.

“One of those days,” Woods said.

He was T-48 and five shots behind co-leaders Kevin Tway and Jamie Lovemark shortly after finishing his first postseason holes since 2013.

Woods was average throughout the bag, hitting a respectable 9 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens. Usually that many fairways means good birdie looks, but he didn’t give himself the opportunity with his irons. There were only two birdies, both on par 5s, and a whole lot of two-putt pars.

Woods said he was between clubs on most shots and that’s why he couldn’t pin it closer on several good looks from the fairway. He also said he had perfect yardages during his final-round 64 to finish solo second in the PGA Championship, and also during his third-round 65 Saturday to get into contention at the British Open.

He began his round on No. 9 due to a weird routing issue and came out of the gates with eight consecutive pars – three of them routine, three of them disappointing and two of them gritty, with six-foot par saves at 10 and 12.

Woods is playing with a new driver shaft this week and used it nine times off the tee, along with four 3-woods and just one iron at the short, par-4 12th. The course was soft enough that lift, clean and replace was put into effect, and the lack of runout likely led to Woods using a healthy number of drivers. He hit the fairway on 4 of 9 attempts with that club.

His chili was running hot late in the round, after missing wide right with driver at the par-4 fifth. That led to his second and final bogey of the day, which he finished with three straight pars including a 12-foot birdie miss at the last.

The slow start wasn’t abnormal for Woods this season – over 15 starts he’s only broken 70 twice in the opening round. He’s done it nine times in Round 3.

“I’ve felt pretty good about my starts (since midway through the year),” Woods said. “Right now I think there’s 40, 41 guys I think at 1-under par through 5-under par. Just a very bunched board right now and I think that’s going to be that by the end of the week.”

Woods was in the middle of the pack on the greens with 0.012 strokes gained putting. This is now the fifth straight tournament on relatively slow greens for Woods, who has always preferred faster greens and switched putters going into the QuickenLoans National in part because his new TaylorMade mallet gets the ball rolling faster than his old Scotty Cameron on slow surfaces.

Early-week rain kept the greens in check Thursday, but they should dry out a bit by the weekend.

“You’d certainly like the conditions to be a little firmer and faster,” caddie Joe LaCava said Wednesday. “Everybody would like that. A better ballstriker and a guy who putts well would like to see that too.”

The crowds were pretty tame, especially by NYC standards, but that should pick up by the weekend too. The majority will be hoping for another afternoon like the one that unfolded during the final major of the year.

Woods is hoping to get the ball rolling in that regard Friday, but he’ll need to be a bit sharper in all facets or else start dropping some big putts to make it happen.

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