NORTON, Mass. – Tiger Woods teed off at TPC Boston Thursday afternoon for the first time since 2013, just one day ahead of his 8:51 a.m. Round 1 starting time for the Dell Technologies Championship.
He poked it around over the next five hours the same way he did all of last week in New Jersey – with an easygoing accuracy that indicates his swing is feeling great going into the second FedEx Cup Playoffs event.
Woods hit driver about nine to 10 times and didn’t miss many fairways. He started birdie-birdie and added another at the par-5 seventh, with a short birdie make. Added a few more highlights on the back nine as well.
The putting stroke looked solid with a new TaylorMade blade-style Juno protoype that’s been in development since July. The Ardmore mallet-style putter he’d been using was just a placeholder for this new flat stick that looks very similar to his old Scotty Cameron Newport 2, but features different technology with grooves on the face of the club.
Woods got plenty of extra work in with the new club throughout a steamy afternoon. The late pro-am start was unusual for Woods, who got into town Wednesday night and prefers to tee off first thing in the morning for pro-ams. He chose to get some additional rest Thursday morning amid a stretch of three straight tournaments in three weeks, at a course he knows well.
Woods has finished 11th or better in seven of his nine career starts at TPC Boston, including a win in 2006.
“In general it sets up for a guy that hits it long and high,” Woods said. “And I’ve done that pretty much my whole golf career. It’s just one of those … especially when this golf course gets firm and the greens get hard, then the high ball hitters have an advantage. And that’s been one of my trademarks over my career.”
Woods has been hitting it with a higher flight off the tee after changing driver shafts for the Northern Trust, and he finished the week ranked 17th in strokes gained off the tee and third in strokes gained approach the green. He would have contended with just an average week on the greens, but his worst tournament in that regard since the Memorial led to a T-40 finish and a drop from 20th to 25th in the FedEx Cup standings.
“I thought I played well last week, (but) I fell in places,” Woods said. “So some of the guys who skipped last week, it might have been a smart move whether it was Rory (McIlroy) or Henrik (Stenson). … It’s a long stretch.”
Woods looked totally at ease in front of crowds that were already a bit more raucous than last week’s offering in New Jersey. He spent some time cruising around with Phil Mickelson’s caddie-turned-analyst Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, who’s in Boston to work the tournament for NBC.
One guy was begging him for a driver twirl on the par-4 sixth hole, like your average “Stairway!” at concerts. Woods held off and finally gave in after about the fourth attempt, playing the hits with a vintage driver twirl on the tee box.
While this is a busy stretch of golf for Woods, he looked rested after a few days at home with his kids in Jupiter, Fla.
With a new, more familiar-style putter in the bag and a swing that looks as good as it has all year, he looked ready to make some serious moves starting Friday morning in Boston.