WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Something had to give.
Tiger Woods has already won Jack’s event, Arnie’s event and his own this season. In a year when we’re still debating whether he’s ‘back’ or not, whether he’s the ‘old’ Tiger or a ‘new’ one and whether he’ll win a major this season, we couldn’t possibly expect him to take Sam Snead’s event, too.
On Thursday, Woods opened The Greenbrier Classic in 1-over 71 on a day when everyone around him was going low.
“The golf course is definitely a course you could tear apart today,” Woods said. “The greens are firm but slow and (if you) drive the ball in the fairway, you’re going to have a bunch of holes where it’s going to be 9-iron on down.”
Vijay Singh posted a 7-under 63 after his morning jaunt around the Old White TPC Course. Woods’ playing partners Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker posted red numbers – 5 under and 1 under, respectively.
But Woods’ day wasn’t as fruitful. His scorecard was dotted with four birdies, three bogeys and one costly double bogey on the par-5 17th due to an errant tee shot and a missed 2-footer for bogey.
“(The 2-foot putt on 17) was a simple little tap-in putt and I blocked it,” Woods said. “I just blocked it.”
Woods looked like a different Tiger than the one who was in control just a few days ago, Sunday at Congressional, where he shot 2-under 69 to win the AT&T National by two over Bo Van Pelt.
“I was a little bit off with my game,” Woods said. “On top of that, I didn’t have the speed of the greens at all.”
Call it a little bit off, call it fatigue from his win last week or call it unfamiliarity with the course at The Greenbrier, where he’s teeing it up for the first time as a professional. Whatever it was, Woods’ opening 1-over round leaves him well off the pace after 18 holes.
That might have concerned Woods at other points throughout his two-year ‘slump’ post-Thanksgiving 2009, but this is a new Tiger. This is the Tiger who leads the PGA Tour in number of wins this season. This is a Tiger who’s regained his confidence and has some perspective.
Not to suggest that he’s the Tiger of old, but he’s slowly but surely coming into his own. When things don’t go immediately as planned, he understands that every day, every round, is part of the process.
Woods may be eight shots back, but there’s plenty of golf left to be played.
Because of thunderstorms and lightning in the area Tuesday, Woods was unable to get in a practice round. He played Wednesday in the pro-am, but it wasn’t quite the preparation he would have liked at a course he’s seen very little of. After his first round Thursday, Woods learned a thing or two.
“I had to take Wednesday a little bit more seriously than I usually do because I hadn’t played the golf course,” Woods said.
“It takes a little bit of time, especially under tournament conditions. The ball goes a little bit further, adrenaline, and now I understand. I get the feel of the golf course now.”
With knowledge comes power and with 54 holes left to play at The Greenbrier Classic, Woods has plenty of time to pick up the slack and put himself in position for another legendary win this season.