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Connecting the Dots

Tiger Woods and Adam Scott
Getty Images

AKRON, Ohio – Young schoolchildren would call it connecting the dots. Draw a line from one point to the next to the next and suddenly a picture appears.

Those with a little more schooling may formally recognize it as the transitive property of geometry. If a equals b and b equals c, then a must also equal c.

However you assess the situation, there are conclusions which can be made from the recent scenario that saw Steve Williams fired by Tiger Woods. The player didn’t like his caddie temporarily looping for Adam Scott, so he made a change. Williams didn’t like being canned and is now working for Scott on a full-time basis.

Therefore, based on these recent events, there must also be a budding rivalry between Woods and Scott.

Or maybe the wrong dots are being connected.

“I haven't seen him yet,” Scott said Thursday afternoon. “I don't think it should be awkward. I mean, this kind of thing happens on the Tour. It happens a lot every year with everyone and just because it's Tiger and Steve, I'm not going to treat it like it's anything different than anyone else going through this. I hope it's not going to be awkward. I don't have a problem, but if he has a problem, then he can definitely tell me.”

Two weeks after Woods and Williams officially announced their separation, it remains major news as through one round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational they are dominating the headlines, with Scott leading after a flawless 8-under 62 and Woods returning from a three-month injury hiatus to post a score that left him six shots off the pace.

Let’s start with Scott. While most stories may sound something like, “Steve Williams posted a 62 in the opening round – and Adam Scott walked next to him swinging a club,” he should be lauded for early success in the wake of what could be construed as controversy.

Following a round that included eight birdies and no bogeys, Scott figured it was just another day in the life for his caddie, who helped Woods to seven previous victories here at Firestone Country Club.

“He just seems to have a lot of good rounds in him around this place, that's for sure,” he said with a laugh. “He didn't think it was a big deal to shoot 62. It was normal.”

When Scott got serious, he became effusive in his praise for Williams.

“He believes in my game, that I can be one of the best players in the world,” Scott explained. “You know, I think he thinks he can help me achieve that and I believe that, too. So it's just a positive energy and just good motivation. Everything is very positive and confident with Steve so far and, you know, that's hopefully rubbing off on me.”

Woods, on the other hand, looked like he adjusted quite easily to life without Williams on the bag. With longtime friend Bryon Bell as his caddie, he often figured out his own yardages, never relied on him for club selection and posted a 2-under 68 in his first full round since the Masters four months ago.

More importantly, Woods walked without a limp and seemed satisfied that his game is heading in the right direction.

“I was hitting proper shots out there and the distances I was hitting the golf ball, I hadn't hit the ball like this,” he said. “This was fun, to be able to hit the ball with that much flush feeling through the golf ball and speed I had. It was pretty nice.”

Despite not having won a tournament since before his highly publicized personal scandal in late 2009, Woods has shown flashes of brilliance during the past two seasons. There was the torrid back nine during the third round of last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach; there was the thrashing of Francesco Molinari in their Ryder Cup singles match; there was the blistering front nine in the final round of this year’s Masters.

His opening 18-holer at Firestone may not have exuded the same electricity, but it did include one shot that looked like vintage Tiger. After pushing his tee shot on the par-5 16th hole into the right rough, he used a fairway wood to carve a big cut around an overhanging tree that settled in the fairway 269 yards away and led to his third and final birdie of the day.

“I didn't think I could get it that far down there,” Woods said. “I knew I could carry the bunker with no problem, but I didn't think I could almost run it through.”

Such are the problems for the world’s 28th-ranked golfer these days. It appears his game is very much intact, though he’s still learning to make adjustments on the fly. He has repeatedly maintained that there will be no “Eureka!” moment when it all clicks, instead understanding that this will be a long-term development.

“It's a progress, a progression. You take it step by step,” Woods explained. “Just when I think this is pretty good, I get a little bit better. This one, [swing coach] Sean [Foley] and I say, ‘OK, that's wonderful position, that's where you need to get to,’ I get even better. That's what's fun about it is we keep refining it. Today some of the shots, some of the drives I hit out there, I got my power back.”

Two men separated by one caddie decision. There may be no animosity between Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, but that doesn’t mean a head-to-head matchup wouldn’t generate some major interest this week.

How come? Well, just connect the dots.