Greatest Player on the Planet
Give Brendan Jones credit. He made a game of it, at least as much as an Australian journeyman whose greatest Tour accomplishment is that he has missed the cut or withdrew from more than half the events (11) he has played (21). For 16 holes, Jones smiled and played the part of hapless victim to destiny. All the world loves cheerful road kill.
In Jones defense, he made an easy $45k for his troubles, which counts out to about $2,800 per hole for the bean counters in the Dove Mountain masses, and the way Woods hit the ball it didnt matter if he was playing the 64th player in the world, or the fourth.
The only difference between Torrey Pines Tiger and Tucson Tiger was the limp and his need to start padding Charlie Axels college fund. The biggest question since Ayn Rand penned, Whos John Galt? was Did the layoff, or surgery, in any way hurt Tigers game?
The answer came via a mid-day blur, with Woods roaring past a stunned Jones with a birdie-eagle start to build a lead in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship he would never relinquish.
On Tuesday, Woods said he wanted to try and get back into the rhythm of the game as quickly as possible. The Pep Boys dont work that fast.
The joke, it seems, was on the media hounds who struggle to understand a player who sees only the finish line.
With a left knee that could finally withstand a 150 mph action, tranquility on the home front and a competitive jones in need of a fix, Woods showed up at the Match Play with a single To Do note pinned to his new AT&T staff bag ' win.
I dont go to an event that I dont think I can win, Woods said. Why go? It doesnt make any sense to me. So I entered this event with the same intention I do every event since I was a little boy, and thats to win.
Its perhaps the most misunderstood element to a man that keeps his day job as simple as see ball, hit ball. Everybody has an off day, whether you pure 3-irons or teach third graders, and Woods is no different. What separates him from the rest of the rat race is that he never plans for a bad day.
Asked last week how it was possible Woods could ever be better than he was at Torrey Pines, swing coach Hank Haney offered an analytical response void of any hyperbole.
He never stops trying to get better, Haney said via e-mail. I never doubt Tiger Woods, because after all, he is Tiger Woods.
On Wednesday, Woods was better. Perhaps a tad rusty and probably a little more anxious than hes been in some time on a golf course, but confident in the work he and Haney have put in and undoubtedly relieved that his bones dont rattle when he swings.
Jones did his best, keeping Woods within chip-shot range through the turn, but match play has been described as 18 little Sundays, and Woods lives for Sunday. By the time Woods parred the 12th hole, Jones started to look a little like Bear Grylls from the Discovery Channels Man vs. Wild and one half expected the Aussie to start chewing on a cactus for sustenance.
Four holes into the fish bowl, the only pleasantries exchanged between the two was, Youre away. At the first, second and third holes, Jones failed to get his golf ball inside Woods, a match play faux pas when your opponent is lacking blind spots. At the fourth, the man looking to tilt the ultimate windmill sailed his drive deep into the Arizona desert and the line changed to far and away.
Ive got to be satisfied, Jones smiled. I played the greatest player on the planet and I put in a reasonable showing. Theres a couple of holes out there where I let it slip, 3 and 2 to Tiger Woods . . . Im pretty happy with that.
It also didnt help that Jones showed up to the days featured matinee with rabbit ears. Woods comeback was always going to be more rock n roll than royal and ancient, and barking at the gallery only made things worse. But as speed bumps go, Jones played the part well.
Call it a light work day, like any good show, the principal character always puts in some dry runs, and Jones would always be an understudy. Next up is Tim Clark, a proven Tour player whose first title always seems one start away, and after that is a possible made-for-TV bout in Round 3 against European up-and-comer Rory McIlroy.
They will face the match play equivalent of rocket science, because the only question that lingers after Wednesdays masterpiece is how much better can Woods get?
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Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open
The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:
Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)
What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.
Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.
Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.
Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.
Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.
Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one
Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.
Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia
SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.
Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.
''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.
But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.
In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.
''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''
Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.
The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.
''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''
NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.
Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long
Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.
Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.
"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"
The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.
Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.
"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."
Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.
"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.
"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.
"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."