What we learned from Tiger's long-awaited major comebackApril 8, 2018 Opinion
It's been over two and a half years since Tiger Woods last hit a ball in a major. So, asks Mark Townsend, what were the positives and negatives from his week at Augusta?
1. He’s back, healthy and happy
Given where he was towards the back end of last year the amazing thing is that he played at all here.
“Putting it in perspective, six months ago I didn’t know if I’d be playing golf,” Woods said on Friday. “Forget playing at the tour level, I didn’t know if I’d ever be playing again.”
He explained earlier in the week that last year he could barely sit still at the Champions Dinner, such was the pain in his leg and back. He was, in his words, a “walking miracle”.
And he was back playing at Augusta for just the second time in five years, he wasn’t climbing out of bunkers awkwardly, he wasn’t grimacing, he was moving nicely as he has done in recent months and he was, as ever, talking up his chances even after just making the cut at 4 over.
“Even though I’m a lot behind, if I play a special weekend, shoot two rounds in the mid-60s, you never know.”
Just like old times…
2. Don’t believe the hype
Obviously this is so easy to say with hindsight but, dear me, it was asking a lot for him to play up to his pre-tournament hype.
Despite our familiarity with Augusta it’s easy to forget quite how brilliant all parts of your game have to be to be on the top few pages of the leaderboard.
This was just his 10th start in the past three years and he has now played 22 rounds in 2018.
His major CV has been blank since the missed cut at Whistling Straits in 2015 so, just because he has 14 wins and 38 top 10s to his name and his name is Tiger Woods, the reality is that the majors are on an altogether different level.
Look at the scores of the likes of Gary Woodland, Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren and, of course, Sergio and it’s a pretty stark reminder of how brutal Augusta can be.
3. The 1st not kind to Tiger, again
Despite all the 18th-hole heroics and nerveless closing out of tournaments over the years Woods has become fairly synonymous with some 1st tee. Maybe not jitters, but at least some untimely malfunctions.
The 1st at Augusta hasn’t been kind to him and that continued this week with a run of 4-5-5-4.
Saturday’s bogey was his 24th career bogey or worse at Augusta which makes it his second worst hole.
On Thursday, his first shot proper at Augusta for three years, it went the same way as the K Club and Carnoustie et al. Left.
“Hit a little fade up the left side. It didn’t fade.”
4. The par 5s not kind to Tiger, for a change
Back in the day there was some ridiculous stat (I can’t find it now but I think it was something like he was -100) on how many Woods was under par on the 5s.
This week he was giving himself chances but not capitalising on them until the final round.
After three days Patrick Reed had picked up 13 shots on the par 5s, Woods was 12 shots worse.
There was some much brighter news on Sunday when he made three birdies and an eagle but, with four of them and all of them in range, you have to fill your boots here.
As for the 12th the first two days saw him end up wet and make bogey both times which is almost certainly a first for him on his 21st visit here.
“You .can hit marginal shots there and get hosed, but those weren’t marginal shots, those were just terrible golf shots.”
5. Roll on the rest of 2018
Woods is now 42, he hasn’t won a major since 2008, he has a fused back and he hasn’t contended this week but you would come away from Augusta not put off by his chances for the rest of the year and beyond.
His irons were off and the area of his game that disappointed him the most but he loved the way that he drove it as the tournament progressed – and, come the end of it all, he only made one double which came at the 5th on Friday when he almost ended up on Berckmans Road.
Some effort for someone who has played so little golf and a very promising sign of how his head is still working.
There was 69 to sign off, he will be quietly fuming by the 72nd-hole three-putt, to leave him at 1 over, there were standing ovations even on the practice ground and there were plenty of smiles.
It’s out of the way, he’s done himself plenty of favours and he’s back inside the world’s top 100.
Onwards and upwards…