GREENSBORO, N.C. – All he needed was one good shot, one good round, one good tournament.
Through the first turn at the Wyndham Championship Tiger Woods remained on topic, holing putts like he’s Jordan Spieth on his way to his lowest round on the PGA Tour (64) since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational ... in 2013.
Woods’ 6-under card was an impressive opening move in what is essentially an 11th-hour Hail Mary attempt to secure a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin next week.
“It was nice to finally get some putts going in and on top of that it was nice to make some par putts,” said Woods, who needed just 26 putts on a soggy Sedgefield Country Club layout.
Woods made putts for birdie at Nos. 1, 4, 5, 13, 15 and 18; but it was the crucial par putts, like at the par-3 16th hole when he raced his first attempt some 7 feet past the hole, that somehow made Thursday feel different.
All the little things that Woods has talked about in recent weeks – his inability to maintain momentum and turn a 70 into a 64 – were on display on Thursday at the Wyndham Championship from the outset.
Just before 8 a.m. (ET) he set the tone, igniting the gallery, and even himself, with a bold flop shot that bounced twice and trickled into the hole for an unlikely birdie at his first hole (No. 10).
“That was a loud roar,” said Brooks Koepka, who was paired with Woods on Day 1. “I haven’t heard that one, that loud in a long time. It was cool to see.”
Woods seemed to agree, walking the pitch-in with his hand held high in the air like it was 2007, like it was the most natural thing to turn a hard par into an easy birdie.
“I went for the shot and instead of playing something more conservative, the greens were hard and fast and I wanted to play something long,” said Woods, who was tied for fifth place when he completed his morning round. “I got aggressive with it and I went for it and I pulled it off.”
Being aggressive seemed to be the order of the day for Woods.
Although many applauded Woods’ decision to play the Wyndham Championship for the first time, opining the relatively short Sedgefield layout (7,127 yards) would allow him to play away from his driver and focus on position, his game plan on Thursday suggested otherwise.
Woods hit driver five times in Round 1, finding the fairway on three of those occasions, the most impressive of which was a bomb down the middle of the par-5 15th fairway to set up a two-putt birdie.
Normally Woods would shy away from courses like Sedgefield, where 18 under par is a good target number unless the course is soft and things really turn into a scoring frenzy.
The course is soft and the frenzy began early on Thursday, with two players (William McGirt and Erik Compton) posting 62s.
“You just have to do it, accept how the golf course is playing,” Woods said. “When it’s like this you got to throw darts and go low.”
For a player who has dealt with all manner of pressure in his career, normally of the Grand Slam variety, this is strangely new. A win, or maybe a solo second-place finish depending on how the math settles, is the only way to play his way into the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list and the playoffs.
If not, Woods’ short-term competitive fortunes are on the shelf, probably until the Frys.com Open in October to begin the 2015-16 season.
For so long now Woods has told anyone who would ask that he’s close, that he needs just one good push to break himself out of his competitive swoon. At his own Quicken Loans National, for example, he felt things were finally swinging in his direction after a second-round 66, but he signed for a 74 on Saturday and tied for 18th place.
Even at last week’s PGA Championship he didn’t feel like things were as askew as the scorecard would suggest.
“I know it’s crazy to say, but I wasn’t playing that poorly at the PGA,” said Woods, who missed the cut at Whistling Straits with rounds of 75-73. “Every spot I put myself I had no lie. ... Any borderline shot I never got away with it and that’s the way it goes.”
It’s the way things have gone for the better part of two years, to be accurate. Whether it was the rub of the green or the rut his game has been in there has always been a rally killer to turn what could have been a breakthrough week into just another break.
It’s still early in Woods’ 2014-15 walk-off, still plenty of birdies that will have to be made, but for one day, for one round things went his way.