NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Tiger Woods made the turn in less than 30, and I managed not to pass out from excitement. Here’s what it was like watching Tiger rip off a first-round 62 and take the co-lead Thursday with Rory McIlroy.
• I kind of can’t believe how calm I feel about this. Tiger Woods had a legitimate chance at 59 on Thursday at Aronimink and not a single part of it felt out of place. Whether Woods is “back” or not has been a running joke for years. But short of a win, what other measuring stick is there? The guy was 8 under and he left shots out there. Yeah, the course is playing short and soft, and plenty of guys – hey, Rory – are having a good go at it, but 62 is 62, and 29 is his lowest nine-hole total in 11 years.
• Two key equipment changes. We’ll start with the putter. Tiger put the Scotty back in the bag, and it paid immediate dividends. He just picked up 2.24 strokes on the field via the greens, taking 27 putts en route to seven birdies, an eagle, and a bogey. I understand that sometimes you have to give a club a break. And sometimes you just lose the feeling in your hands. But for the life of me I will never understand Tiger Woods playing with any other putter. Thirteen majors don’t lie. And neither does this:
As @JasonSobelTAN pointed out:— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) September 6, 2018
1999 AT&T Byron Nelson: Tiger's 1st official round with the Scotty Cameron putter in play. Shoots 61.
Today: Tiger puts that putter back in the bag. Shoots 62.
Those are the 2 lowest opening rounds of Tiger's career.
• The other change? It was to his driver. Tiger said last week that he has adjusted the loft and switched out the shaft in his driver, going back to a Diamana Whiteboard he seems very happy to be whipping around again. He hit 12 tee balls over 300 yards and found 9 of 14 fairways. And he agrees that the club feels “like a weapon again.”
“Yeah, it does,” he said. “My speed, my rotation, so many different things that have evolved throughout the year and have gotten better, and so we've decided to go with more loft and go back to a shaft that I won with a lot. So, again, the feel in my hands, that's a familiar feel, that's a familiar flex point, that's a familiar vibration of the shaft. Those are all things that I used to feel and but now I think I'm in position I can do it again.”
• The real joy was watching him take dead-aim with short irons and wedges. With Aronimink playing so short, Tiger said after the round he didn’t hit anything more than a 9-iron into a par 4. He found 16 of 18 greens and leads the field in strokes gained: approach at +3.14. Everyone loves a short iron, but no shot was as good as his 3-iron from 240 yards to 5 feet, setting up an eagle at the par-5 16th. “That was a good one,” he said with a big smile after the round.
• He’s still sweating like crazy, by the way. He packed four shirts Thursday and he went through every one of them.
• So where do we go from here? The guy is the greatest front-runner in the history of the game but wire-to-wire ain’t easy. And this field is obviously stacked. Rory, Xander, Rickie, Rahm and Rosie stand out on the early board. If he manages to carry this start into a trophy list on Sunday? Yeah, he’ll be “back.”
• Here's a look at Woods' scorecard from his opening 62 at the BMW Championship that gave him a share of the lead.