Golf Talk Live - Bernard Gallacher Transcript Segment 1

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2001, 5:00 pm
TEASE
SCOTLAND'S BERNARD GALLACHER WON 15 EUROPEAN TOUR EVENTS. WAS AN 8 TIME RYDER CUP PLAYER AND 3 TIME RYDER CUP CAPTAIN. HE CARVED OUT HIS SUCCESS AS A PLAYER IN CANTON WHILE STILL
ESSENTIALLY A FAMILY MAN AND CLUB PRO AT WENTWORTH GOLF CLUB OUTSIDE LONDON. MEET THE BALANCED BERNARD GALLACHER, NOW ON GOLF TALK LIVE.
(MUSIC)
IN 1968 WHEN BERNARD WAS 20, HE WAS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR ON THE EUROPEAN TOUR. HE WON THE ORDER OF MERIT AND THE VARDON TROPHY IN 1969 AND MADE HIS FIRST RYDER CUP TEAM AS A PLAYER.
THAT WAS THE YEAR JACK NICKLAUS CONCEDED TONY JACKLIN'S MISABLE PUTT ON THE FINAL HOLE WHICH ENSURED A TIE TO THE MATCHES, AND RETENTION OF THE CUP FOR THE AMERICANS. IT WAS ALSO A YEAR THAT BERNARD GALLACHER DEFEATED LEE TREVINO IN THEIR SINGLES MATCH. HE ALWAYS HAD A SENSE OF
BALANCE, WANTED TO BE NEAR HIS FAMILY, THOUGHT OF HIMSELF AS A CLUB PRO WHO PLAYED 15 EVENTS A SEASON. HIS CAREER AS A PLAYER WAS MARKED BY CONSISTENCY AND A BRILLIANT SHORT GAME. BERNARD REPRESENTED SCOTLAND 5 TIMES IN THE
WORLD CUP. WON THE DUNLAP MASTERS TWICE AND THE SPANISH AND FRENCH OPENS AS A PART TIME PLAYER. BERNARD BECAME EUROPEAN RYDER CUP CAPTAIN TONY JACKLIN'S ASSISTANT IN THE MID 80'S AND
WHEN TONY STEPPED ASIDE, BERNARD BECAME CAPTAIN IN 1991 AND STAYED AS CAPTAIN UNTIL HIS TEAM WON BRILLIANTLY. THE UNITED STATES AT OAK HILL IN 1995. AND HE DID THESE THINGS WHILE RAISING THREE CHILDREN AND TEACHING BAD GOLFERS TO BE BETTER AT THE WENTWORTH CLUB. HE
HAS BEEN AWARDED THE ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE, HAS A STREET NAMED AFTER HIM NEAR HIS BIRTHPLACE IN SCOTLAND, AND A LIFE SIZE STATUE WAS ERECTED IN HIS HONOR AT THE BURMA ROAD COURSE AT WENTWORTH. A REMINDER THAT
YOU CAN STILL MAKE YOUR MARK WHILE STILL MAKING A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION.
PETER KESSLER
WELCOME TO GOLF TALK LIVE, I'M PETER KESSLER. GREAT PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO ONE OF SCOTLAND'S GIFTS TO GOLF, BERNARD GALLACHER. PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE, SIR.
BERNARD GALLACHER
THANKS, NICE TO BE HERE.
PETER KESSLER
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY TO YOU.
BERNARD GALLACHER
YEAH, THANKS VERY MUCH.
PETER KESSLER
COMING FROM THE HOME OF SCOTLAND, DID THEY LET YOU WALK BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY HAD A CLUB IN YOUR HAND?
BERNARD GALLACHER
OH YEAH, YEAH. EVERYONE IN SCOTLAND PLAYS GOLF. EVERY VILLAGE HAS GOT A GOLF COURSE AND WE ALL LIKE PLAYING GOLF IT'S, WE'RE GOOD AT, WE'RE BETTER AT SOCCER THAN GOLF BUT WE ALL LIKE TO PLAY GOLF.
PETER KESSLER
WHAT WERE YOU BETTER AT, SOCCER OR GOLF?
BERNARD GALLACHER
UM... WELL I CERTAINLY PLAYED A LOT OF FOOTBALL. WE CALL IT FOOTBALL, IN SCOTLAND AND UH YOU KNOW 12 YEAR OLD RIGHT THROUGH TO OUR 16. IT WAS, FOOTBALL IN THE WINTER, GOLF IN THE SUMMER AND BY THE TIME I GOT TO 16
I WAS A BIT BETTER AT GOLF SO I TURNED MY ATTENTION MORE TO GOLF.
PETER KESSLER
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START TO PLAY?
BERNARD GALLACHER
I PLAYED GOLF WHEN I WAS ABOUT 9 YEAR OLD. I USED TO CADDIE FOR MY UNCLE ON THE GOLF COURSE AT BATHGATE WHICH IS QUITE OUTSIDE EDINBOROUGH AND IN BETWEEN CADDYING I WOULD HIT A FEW BALLS AND IT WAS JUST HOW I STARTED.
PETER KESSLER
WHAT KIND OF PLAYER WAS YOUR DAD?
BERNARD GALLACHER
MY DAD WAS ABOUT A 14 HANDICAP WHEN HE WAS AT HIS BEST. HE PEAKED AT 14.
PETER KESSLER
(LAUGHS)
BERNARD GALLACHER
AND THEN HE WENT BACK DOWN TO BE AN 18 HANDICAP AND I THINK HE WAS QUITE HAPPY BEING AN 18 HANDICAP. THERE'S A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS LIFE WHO ARE QUITE HAPPY BEING 18 HANDICAPPERS AND YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST NICE TO HAVE A HANDICAP HE'S QUITE COMFORTABLE WITH (LAUGHS).

PETER KESSLER
WHO WERE YOUR GOLF HEROES WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
BERNARD GALLACHER
GARY PLAYER, ARNOLD PALMER... PROBABLY ERIC BROWN... PEOPLE IN AMERICA MAYBE HAVEN'T HEARD MUCH OF ERIC BROWN BUT HE BEAT, HE WAS A RYDER CUP CAPTAIN AS WELL.
PETER KESSLER
ERIC OF COURSE BEAT TOMMY BOLT IN SINGLES IN THE '57 RYDER CUP.
BERNARD GALLACHER
YEAH
PETER KESSLER
AND THEN AFTERWARDS TOMMY SAID I CAN'T SAY I ENJOYED THE MATCH VERY MUCH AND WHAT DID ERIC SAY TO HIM?
BERNARD GALLACHER
HE SAID WELL I THINK YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO ENJOY THE MATCH VERY MUCH AND YOU WERE BEATEN. YEAH.
I REMEMBER ASKING ERIC BROWN WHAT WAS THE BEST SHOT HE EVER SAW IN GOLF AND HE SAID, QUICK AS A FLASH, ERIC SAID THE BEST SHOT I EVER SAW WAS TOMMY BOLT'S SECOND SHOT IN THE RYDER CUP IN, IN 1957 AT LINDRICK. HE SAID HE HIT THIS
TOWERING 4 IRON SHOT. IT WAS FADING INTO THE FLAG OVER THE LEFT HAND TRAP. IT DIDN'T QUITE MAKE IT OVER THE TRAP AND IT PLUGGED RIGHT UNDERNEATH THE BUNKER, UNPLAYABLE, HE SAID. THAT WAS THE BEST SHOT I EVER SAW IN GOLF. THAT REALLY WAS ERIC BROWN FOR YOU.
PETER KESSLER
IS THAT WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO? PLAY GOLF? OR WAS THERE SOME OTHER DREAM THAT YOU HAD WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
BERNARD GALLACHER
WHEN I WAS AT SCHOOL I THOUGH I MIGHT BE A DENTIST. I WAS THINKING ABOUT DENTISTRY, BUT, THE STUDYING TO BE A DENTIST WAS GOING TO INTERRUPT MY GOLF AND SO, I TURNED PRO WHEN I WAS 17 AND UH THAT WAS QUITE YOUNG. LOOKING BACK I DON'T
KNOW WHAT, HOW I HAD THE CONFIDENCE TO TURN PRO WHEN I WAS 17. BUT I TURNED PRO AT 17 AND I WANTED TO PLAY A FEW YEARS PLAYING IN TOURNAMENTS AND THEN TURN MY ATTENTION TO BEING A CLUB PRO BECAUSE I NEVER AT ANY MOMENT WHEN
I TURNED PRO THOUGHT YOU COULD ACTUALLY MAKE A LIVING OR, AS A CLUB, AS A TOURING PRO. WE DIDN'T REALLY HAVE THAT MANY TOURNAMENTS, ONLY 15, 12 TOURNAMENTS A YEAR MAYBE, AND THEY ONLY LASTED APRIL TILL
SEPTEMBER. I MEAN WHO WOULD THINK TODAY IN EUROPE THAT WE'RE PLAYING FOR NEARLY 40 MILLION POUNDS. 35 NEARLY 40 TOURNAMENTS A YEAR. I MEAN IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE THAT YOU, YOU, YOU
COULDN'T THINK THIS WOULD EVER, ENVISAGE THIS WOULD EVER HAPPEN.
SO I WANTED TO PLAY A LITTLE BIT TOURNAMENT GOLF AND THEN BECOME A CLUB PRO. THAT'S WHAT I WANTED TO BE.
PETER KESSLER
WAS THERE NEVER A DREAM TO BE THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD?
BERNARD GALLACHER
UM, WELL, I MEAN, LIKE EVERY ONE ELSE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WINNING THE BRITISH OPEN. YOU WANT TO WIN THE BRITISH OPEN OR PLAY IN THE RYDER CUP, AND THAT, THAT'S REALLY WHAT YOU, YOU DID, YOU
KNOW YOU PLAYED WHEN YOU WERE A YOUNGSTER AND YOU PRETENDED ON THE LAST GREEN THAT THIS WAS A PUTT TO WIN THE BRITISH OPEN. YOU TRIED TO BUILD UP WITH PRESSURE AND SEE HOW YOU COULD HANDLE IT, SO, WE, WE NEVER, WE NEVER
THOUGHT, YOU KNOW TRAVELING IN THOSE DAYS WAS VERY DIFFICULT. WE NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT TRAVELING TO AMERICA TO PLAY OR... I MEAN, WE HAD VERY MODEST AMBITIONS. IT WAS REALLY ABOUT PLAYING IN BRITAIN, REALLY.
PETER KESSLER
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE GAME CAME EASILY TO YOU?
BERNARD GALLACHER
NO, THE GAME WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO ME. IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN AND IT'S MAINLY BECAUSE I STARTED, WE DIDN'T HAVE A PROFESSIONAL AT BATHGATE, MY OWN GOLF CLUB AND I HAD TO COPY ALL THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE CLUB. THE SWING I HAD WAS A COPIED SWING FROM THE BEST
PLAYER IN THE CLUB AND I STARTED PLAYING GOLF WITH A VERY BAD GRIP, A VERY STRONG GRIP AND BECAUSE YOU START WITH A STRONG GRIP, YOU START WITH A CLOSED CLUBFACE AT THE TOP AND YOU'RE FIGHTING A HOOK, AND BECAUSE I WAS FIGHTING A HOOK, I, I COULDN'T PLAY A DRIVER, I HAD TO PLAY A TWO WOOD, BUT I
DIDN'T KNOW WHY, AND I DIDN'T REALLY HAVE THIS ADVISE OR THIS KNOWLEDGE THAT I REALLY WANTED AND THAT'S WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT TODAY TO, IF YOU'RE GOING TO, IF YOU'VE GOT CHILDREN, SMALL KIDS TO START, START GOLF WITH A PROPER GOLF LESSON. THEY DON'T NEED MASSES OF
LESSONS BUT THEY NEED A PRO TO SHOW THEM HOW TO STAND TO THE BALL, HOW TO GRIP THE CLUB PROPERLY AND THEN LET THEM GO AND PRACTICE. GIVE THEM THE FREEDOM TO HIT BALLS, BUT I, I DIDN'T REALLY HAVE THAT, THAT, THAT ADVISE
AT THE START AND IT WAS, I FOUND GOLF, I'VE ALWAYS FOUND GOLF QUITE DIFFICULT. I HAD TO PRACTICE A LOT, WORK IT OUT FOR MYSELF AND I DIDN'T HAVE MY FIRST GOLF LESSON TILL I WAS ABOUT 16 YEAR OLD, AND YOU KNOW I TURNED PRO WHEN I WAS 17, SO
PETER KESSLER
YOU'RE A QUICK LEARNER THEN.
BERNARD GALLACHER
WELL YES, BUT, I'VE, I'VE HAD TO PRACTICE AND I'VE HAD TO SEEK ADVISE FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, OVER THE YEARS.
PETER KESSLER
WERE YOU THE BEST TEENAGE PLAYER THAT YOU KNEW?
BERNARD GALLACHER
THAT I KNEW. I WAS THE BEST PLAYER AT THE CLUB, EVENTUALLY, AT MY OWN GOLF CLUB, BUT WE HAD A LOT OF GOOD PLAYERS AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT INSPIRED ME, TRYING TO, TO BEAT THE PLAYERS MY AGE, MY PEERS.
PETER KESSLER
WHEN YOU JUST MENTIONED THAT THERE WASN'T MUCH MONEY I THOUGHT OF YOUR FIRST GREAT YEAR IN 1969 WHERE YOU WON A COUPLE OF TOURNAMENTS IN AFRICA AND A COUPLE OF TOURNAMENTS IN GREAT BRITAIN, AND OF COURSE FOR THE WHOLE YEAR, IN THIS GREAT YEAR WHEN YOU'RE
TWENTY YEARS OLD AND LEADING THE ORDER OF MERIT AND WINNING THE HARRY VARDON TROPHY, YOU WON LIKE 5000 POUNDS, WHICH IS ABOUT
BERNARD GALLACHER
WELL IT WAS ABOUT 7000 POUNDS
PETER KESSLER
7000 FOR THE YEAR?
BERNARD GALLACHER
YEAH
PETER KESSLER
I DIDN'T REALIZE
BERNARD GALLACHER
YEAH
PETER KESSLER
THAT OTHER COUPLE, BUT THAT'S 14, 15 THOUSAND DOLLARS AT
BERNARD GALLACHER
YEAH
PETER KESSLER
THE TIME IN AMERICAN DOLLARS
BERNARD GALLACHER
WELL... IT WAS A LOT OF MONEY TOO, AND I BOUGHT A HOUSE WITH THAT MONEY. IT WAS THE FIRST THING I DID. I BOUGHT MYSELF A HOUSE, OR I BOUGHT MY PARENTS A HOUSE. SO, THAT'S HOW MONEY, HOW THE VALUE OF MONEY... DOESN'T SOUND MUCH TODAY BUT YOU KNOW, WE DIDN'T REALLY
PLAY, I DIDN'T REALLY COME IN, ALTHOUGH I WANTED TO MAKE A LIVING FROM GOLF I WAS MORE INTERESTED IN TOURNAMENTS. I WANTED TO, I WAS JUST SO PLEASED TO PLAY AND QUALIFY FOR THE EVENTS AND WIN A
TOURNAMENT AND FINISH SECOND IN A TOURNAMENT. THAT'S REALLY AND, SOMEBODY GAVE YOU MONEY AT THE END AND THAT WAS GREAT (LAUGHS). GOT MONEY AT THE END OF IT TOO.
PETER KESSLER
LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT 1969 WHEN WE COME BACK. DON'T GO AWAY.
(MUSIC)
(BREAK)
 
NEXT SEGMENT
Getty Images

Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

Getty Images

Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

Getty Images

McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.

Getty Images

Woods (70) better in every way on Day 1 at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 8:40 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Consider it a sign of the times that Tiger Woods was ecstatic about an even-par score Thursday at the Honda Classic.

It was by far his most impressive round in this nascent comeback.

Playing in a steady 20-mph wind, Woods was better in all facets of the game Thursday at PGA National. Better off the tee. Better with his irons. And better on and around the “scratchy” greens.

He hung tough to shoot 70 – four shots better than his playing partner, Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the current FedExCup leader – and afterward Woods said that it was a “very positive” day and that he was “very solid.”

It’s a small sample size, of course – seven rounds – but Woods didn’t hesitate in declaring this “easily” his best ball-striking round of the year.

And indeed it was, even if the stats don’t jump off the page.

Officially, he hit only seven of 14 fairways and just 10 greens, but some of those misses off the tee were a few paces into the rough, and some of those iron shots finished just off the edge of the green.

The more telling stat was this: His proximity to the hole (28 feet) was more than an 11-foot improvement over his first two starts this year. And also this: He was 11th among the early starters in strokes gained-tee to green, which measures a player’s all-around ball-striking. Last week, at Riviera, he ranked 121st.

“I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I felt like I hit the ball really well, and it was tough out there. I had to hit a lot of knockdown shots. I had to work the golf ball both ways, and occasionally downwind, straight up in the air.

“I was able to do all that today, so that was very pleasing.”

The Champion Course here at PGA National is the kind of course that magnifies misses and exposes a player if he’s slightly off with his game. There is water on 15 of the 18 holes, and there are countless bunkers, and it’s almost always – as it was Thursday – played in a one- or two-club wind. Even though it’s played a half hour from Woods’ compound in Hobe Sound, the Honda wasn’t thought to be an ideal tune-up for Woods’ rebuilt game.

But maybe this was just what he needed. He had to hit every conceivable shot Thursday, to shape it both ways, high and low, and he executed nearly every one of them.

The only hole he butchered was the par-5 third. With 165 yards for his third shot, he tried to draw a 6-iron into a stiff wind. He turned it over a touch too much, and it dropped into the bunker. He hit what he thought was a perfect bunker shot, but it got caught in the overseeded rye grass around the green and stayed short. He chipped to 3 feet and then was blown off-balance by a wind gust. Double.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


But what pleased Woods most was what he did next. Steaming from those unforced errors, he was between a 2- and 3-iron off the tee. He wanted to leave himself a 60-degree wedge for his approach into the short fourth hole, but a full 2-iron would have put him too close to the green.

So he took a little off and “threw it up in the air” – 292 yards.

“That felt really good,” Woods said, smiling. And so did the 6-footer that dropped for a bounce-back birdie.

"I feel like I'm really not that far away," he said. 

To illustrate just how much Woods’ game has evolved in seven rounds, consider this perspective from Brandt Snedeker.

They played together at Torrey Pines, where Woods somehow made the cut despite driving it all over the map. In the third round, Woods scraped together a 70 while Snedeker turned in a 74, and afterward Snedeker said that Woods’ short game was “probably as good or better than I ever remember it being.”

A month later, Snedeker saw significant changes. Woods’ short game is still tidy, but he said that his iron play is vastly improved, and it needed to be, given the challenging conditions in the first round.

“He controlled his ball flight really well and hit a bunch of really good shots that he wasn’t able to hit at Torrey, because he was rusty,” said Snedeker, who shot 74. “So it was cool to see him flight the ball and hit some little cut shots and some little three-quarter shots and do stuff I’m accustomed to see him doing.”

Conditions are expected to only get more difficult, more wind-whipped and more burned out, which is why the winning score here has been single-digits under par four of the past five years.

But Woods checked an important box Thursday, hitting the shots that were required in the most difficult conditions he has faced so far.

Said Snedeker: “I expect to see this as his baseline, and it’ll only get better from here.”