2012 Open prodigy Hossler now nation's top collegian

By Ryan LavnerMarch 15, 2016, 12:00 pm

Do you remember Beau?

It’s been nearly four years since he lumbered down the 18th fairway at the Olympic Club, since his future college coach got chills looking at the U.S. Open leaderboard, since the crowd on the hillside rose to its feet and serenaded him with cheers of “HOSS-LER! HOSS-LER!”

But Beau Hossler is not just an answer to a trivia question, some one-week sensation who faded from relevance. Having filled out his 6-foot-2 frame to 205 pounds, he is now a 21-year-old junior at Texas, the country’s No. 1-ranked college player and a can’t-miss kid who has weathered enormous expectations to become the most polished amateur since, well, another Longhorns legend.  

“He has that Jordan Spieth mind,” said Hossler’s swing coach, Adam Porzak, “in addition to incredible physical ability.”

And so now, with his résumé overflowing with major appearances, international team competitions and elite amateur titles, Hossler has done the unthinkable in four short years: He has turned that historic Open performance into a mere footnote.

HOSSLER’S JOURNEY TO THE TOP of the college ranks didn’t begin in San Francisco. It actually started about seven hours south, in Carlsbad – that’s where legendary swing coach Jim Flick moved in 2006, to work for TaylorMade.

As a kid in Mission Viejo, Calif., Hossler was a standout baseball player. But at age 10 he began to focus on golf, quitting every other sport. His father, Beau Sr., researched the best instructors in Southern California. Flick’s name popped up, and the Hosslers set up a lesson and headed 45 minutes south on Interstate 5. It marked the beginning of a six-year relationship, until Flick passed away in 2012 at age 82.

Flick improved Hossler’s fundamentals, but that was only part of the equation. In an atmosphere where he was surrounded by Flick’s professional clients, Hossler learned how to score, how to play under pressure and how to act like a pro. Flick helped turn Hossler into an independent self-fixer. Hossler would travel to an AJGA event, return to Carlsbad a few days later and tell Flick what he thought they needed to work on. The only event where Flick ever watched his pupil in person was the U.S. Open at Olympic.  

“I was never a guy who was trying to have the picture-perfect swing,” Hossler said. “I was trying to understand what my swing does, the things I do well, and how I can try to make those better.”

Hossler was 13 when he took his first unofficial visit to Texas. A year later, he caught the eye of former Longhorns assistant Ryan Murphy at the 2009 U.S. Amateur. Murphy told head coach John Fields that they should take this 5-foot-nothin’ kid more seriously – Hossler had just shot a pair of 77s in qualifying while hitting driver-4-iron-wedge into par 4s at Southern Hills.

Three days after getting his driver’s license, Hossler advanced through a sectional qualifier for the 2011 U.S. Open. Then the third-youngest to play in an Open, he missed the cut that week at waterlogged Congressional, but a month later he won the prestigious Junior World Championship. By the time he committed to Texas, in March 2012, he was the second-ranked player in a stacked class, with other offers from UCLA, Arizona State and Southern Cal, his father’s alma mater.

It seems the only person fully prepared for what happened next was Hossler. That June, he earned one of the six spots in a 130-man sectional qualifier, becoming the first high schooler since Mason Rudolph in 1951 to earn a spot in consecutive Opens.

The Olympic Open was memorable for a few reasons – Tiger Woods shared the halfway lead and tanked, Jim Furyk snap-hooked a drive off the 70th tee and Jungle Bird crashed the trophy presentation. But for the better part of two days, Hossler was the main attraction, operating with a resolve and poise that belied his braces, zits and chubby physique.

After opening with an even-par 70, Hossler went out in 1 under on Friday before rolling in a 12-footer for birdie on the first hole, his 10th of the day.

“I can still remember the moment that I saw Beau Hossler’s name pop up on the leaderboard in first place,” Fields said. “I got chills. I got goosebumps on my arms and body. That was a surreal moment in golf, a 17-year-old leading the U.S. Open. It was an amazing moment in time.”

Hossler celebrated with caddie Bill Schellenberg in Round 4 of the 2012 U.S. Open. (Getty)

Amazing to those outside the ropes, perhaps, because Hossler’s godfather, Bill Schellenberg, who was on the bag that week, recalled that he and Hossler were “laughing and joking around,” oblivious to the moment or the pressure. “But as we walked to the next tee,” he said, “we were bombarded by cameras and microphones. All of a sudden, Dottie Pepper was in my back pocket.”

Hossler was only four shots back heading into the weekend. He maintained that position through 54 holes, and on the eve of the final round, he was asked by reporters whether he thought he could win. “Absolutely,” he said.  

Like nearly all of the contenders, Hossler retreated on the final day, but as he trudged up to the eighth green, the crowd swelled and chanted his name: “HOSS-LER! HOSS-LER!” Kevin Chappell, playing in the group behind, said it was one of the few times in his life that the hair on his arms stood up.  

“It sounded like a concert,” Schellenberg said, “getting louder and louder.”

Hossler signed for a closing 76 and dropped into a tie for 29th, allowing Spieth, then a rising sophomore at Texas, to steal low-amateur honors. But the publicity and the experience proved more valuable than the gold medal.

“You can’t emulate that kind of pressure and moment anywhere else,” Hossler said, “and the fact that I could handle it at 17, I knew I could do this for a living.”

Hossler got a hug from his mother, Amy Balsz, after Round 3 of the 2012 U.S. Open. (AP)

AGAINST THAT BACKDROP, Hossler enrolled early at Texas in January 2013, less than six months after his star-making performance at Olympic.

Those were high times in Austin. The Longhorns had captured their first NCAA title in 40 years the previous season behind the sterling play of Spieth, who then turned professional. Their lineup featured a new phenom, South African Brandon Stone, who would earn Freshman of the Year honors before bolting for the pros. Coveted recruits from California to New York were lining up to sign. Add in a rising star like Hossler, and Fields’ main job was de-stressing the environment.

“I always thought we were a victim of our own success,” Fields said. “When you win a national championship and have a player come through like Jordan Spieth, the amount of pressure these kids assumed when they first came in, it was ridiculously significant.”

Hossler sat out that spring season to get acclimated to college life, but he still had a rough first semester with the team the following fall. Carrying the load with leader Kramer Hickok out because of a wrist injury, Hossler carded only two rounds in the 60s and failed to record a top-10 in his first semester.

Recently, Spieth, Justin Thomas (Alabama) and Patrick Cantlay (UCLA) have shifted expectations for what was possible in Year 1, but for most college freshmen, there remains a noticeable adjustment to living alone, practicing alone and being surrounded by other elite players with similar ambitions. Given his high profile, Hossler was a target for some of the outside criticism.

“Most people don’t know who the top junior players are until they have a great week on Tour,” he said. “I have that one week and the expectations externally are off the charts.

“The people who know golf don’t have that mindset. But the people who are fans and are not in tune with how golf works at the high level think that just because you have a really good week it means you’re going to win every tournament going forward. You’re going to struggle at times. That’s just how it works.

“We see it all the time with top-ranked freshmen who come in and struggle, and you hear, ‘These guys are washed up!’ No, you have no idea what you’re talking about. College is a whole new deal. There are very few guys who come in and dominate right away.”

Hossler found his groove late in the spring and eventually earned the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award, even if his freshman season failed to live up to his own lofty standards. “Beau’s adversity,” Schellenberg said with a laugh, “was not all that bad.”

And besides, Hossler had braced himself for the challenge. One of the main reasons he chose Texas was because he knew that to play on Tour someday, he needed to learn how to control his ball flight in the wind, putt well on Bermudagrass and regularly test himself against the best competition. Not only do the Longhorns annually play one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, but the current lineup features three players who were on the 2012 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team. It’s a battle just to crack the starting five for an event.

“I needed to test myself,” Hossler said. “I needed to see my game evolve to a level that I could play anywhere.”

Fitting, then, that Hossler’s first college title came last February, at the John Hayt Collegiate in Florida, when it was 40 degrees, raining sideways and blowing 25 mph. He shot 66 in the second round on Bermuda greens.

Hossler’s victory at the Hayt was part of a remarkable run in which he won the Western Amateur, represented the U.S. at the Pan-Am Games, World Amateur Team Championship and Walker Cup (where he posted a team-best 3-1 record), became the fourth player in history to qualify for three U.S. Opens as an amateur and, most recently, routed the field at the Jones Cup.

Hossler, Hunter Stewart and captain 'Spider' Miller at a Walker Cup news conference. (Getty)

“My expectations,” he said, “have gone from looking to contend to expecting myself to win. That’s a big change mentally.”

This season at Texas, he has won an NCAA-best four events to rise to No. 1 in Golfstat’s rankings, even though, he says, “to be completely honest, I haven’t really played my best. Which is a great thing.”

Hossler prides himself on his consistency, and his average finish over the past 4 ½ semesters is 9.5; only Alabama’s Robby Shelton (7.9) has been better over that span.

“Beau doesn’t have an opportunity to hang up his sticks and mosey into a top-10,” said Porzak, his swing coach. “He has to play good golf every week. That’s where Beau separates himself from everybody else – his poor golf still gets top-10s.”

IT ALSO HELPS to have a mentor – and a motivator – like Spieth.

In this era of rocket launchers, the world No. 1 doesn’t hit it the farthest or the straightest, but he has changed the game by placing an added importance on short game, wedge play and strategy. Hossler is cut from the same mold, favoring precision and process over power and pizzazz. They were grouped together last month at the Northern Trust Collegiate Showcase, and afterward Spieth gushed about his friend’s growth, preparation and attitude.

“Beau has very, very little fear and I think that’s going to propel him,” Spieth said. “I think that he’s got a great sense of confidence in his golf game and his ability to be out here without expressing it in a cocky kind of manner. He just goes about his business.”

When told later about Spieth’s comments, about how much he admired his fearlessness, Hossler chuckled.

“That’s a big compliment,” he said, “because when you look at really great players, guys who aren’t afraid to succeed, you think of Jordan Spieth. That’s what makes him so impressive. He plays without fear, when it matters most, with all of his lifelong goals in front of his face.”

Like Spieth, Hossler unlocks his potential mostly through positive self-talk, but he also has been emboldened by his occasional chats with Dr. Jay Brunza, a former Navy clinical psychologist who once worked with Woods and taught him how to emotionally detach himself from pressure situations while still being emotionally invested in the moment.

“That’s why tension just leaves Beau all the time,” Porzak said, “because he always believes that the best possible outcome is going to happen.”

That’s the only reasonable explanation for what happened in two of the biggest events of Hossler’s young career.

During the first round of his 2014 Western Amateur victory, Hossler built a 3-up lead with four holes to play against Cheng-Tsung Pan, then one of the top-ranked players in the world. On the 15th hole, Pan faced about a 20-footer after Hossler hit his approach to 5 feet. Pan raced his birdie try about 12 feet past and appeared to be on the verge of losing the match, but Hossler picked up Pan’s ball. “I’m speechless,” said Porzak, who was on the bag that week. “About to throw up.” With a chance to close out the match, Hossler’s 5-footer horseshoed out. Onward.

“I wanted to grab him and say, ‘Dude, what the heck are you thinking?!’” Porzak said. “’This guy is good and we need to put an end to this match.’”

But Porzak kept quiet, and on the next hole, Hossler smoked a drive and stuck his gap wedge to a foot. He won the match, 3 and 2.

Afterward, Porzak asked Hossler about the concession. “I’m not just going to let him lose on a three-putt,” Hossler replied. “If I’m going to win this match, I’m going to make the putt to win.”

Hossler hits a shot alongside Texas coach John Fields.

Said Gavin Hall, Hossler’s teammate at Texas: “After that title, I sensed a different Beau. He was really motivated and saying that all he wanted to do was win. I started hearing that word a lot more.”

A similar situation played out at last year’s Walker Cup. The Americans were trailing on Day 1 of the biennial matches, but Hossler had achance to earn a valuable point late in his singles match at Royal Lytham. He was 1 up with two to play against Jack Hume, with a 10-foot birdie putt upcoming and his opponent facing a 50-foot chip. Hume pitched to about 6 feet, but his par putt broke sharply from left to right. Hossler’s birdie try hung on the lip, then he inexplicably conceded Hume’s putt to push the match to 18. His team already down two points, U.S. captain Spider Miller went ballistic.

But just like at the Western, Hossler split the 18th fairway, hit his approach to 15 feet and won the match, 1 up, in front of the big crowd and his relieved skipper.

“He wanted to go out with a bang, in Beau style,” said Georgia senior Lee McCoy, one of Hossler’s Walker Cup teammates. “Losing never even crossed his mind. He’s one of those guys you don’t want to go head to head against down the stretch because he’s so good under pressure. Some guys are scared of that and don’t want to be the one who hits the winning putt. Beau loves being in that spotlight.”

ANYONE WHO KNOWS BEAU HOSSLER isn’t surprised by what has transpired over the last two years, the ascendance of a player who is mature, tenacious and brimming with confidence.

Schellenberg knew Hossler was destined for greatness at the 2009 U.S. Amateur, when the kid bunted his way around an Open venue and made par from everywhere; the mother of one of their fellow playing competitors even told him as much.

Fields knew at the 2012 U.S. Open. Burned out, a few weeks removed from the school’s long-awaited national title and having just witnessed the emergence of a once-in-a-generation talent like Spieth, Fields stood next to his wife, Pearl, and stared at the leaderboard.

“I’m scratching my head thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s happening again,’” Fields said. “I was pinching myself more than being perplexed. I had waited my entire career for these types of players, these types of blessings, and now they’re coming in abundance.”

And Porzak knew at last year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. It was his first major as an instructor, and the 29-year-old was a nervous wreck, overthinking everything from where to stand to how to secure his credentials.  

“Then I look at Beau,” Porzak said, “and he is more at ease and having more fun than I’ve ever seen him in my entire life. That’s when I said that we might not be witnessing just another great player. I think we have the potential to witness one of the best players who has ever played the game.

“And it’s not just the talent. Look at the perfect storm of attributes: The head on his shoulders. The calmness about him. The self-belief and confidence. He looks like he’s meant to be out there.”

And Hossler will be soon enough. Though he declined to discuss his future, he is likely to turn pro after the NCAAs in June. Perhaps it’ll be Hossler – not amateur sensation Bryson DeChambeau, not top-ranked Jon Rahm – who enjoys the most success as a professional this summer.

If nothing else, don’t expect Hossler to get rattled by the pressure to perform. After all, it’s nothing new – he hasn’t competed anonymously since the beginning of high school. He is the rare amateur golfer who already has some semblance of celebrity.

“I love it,” he said. “I don’t have anything to shy away from. I prefer to have all eyes on me.”

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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.

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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?'''

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”