Good outweighs the bad and ugly for Tiger Woods

Maybe Tiger has the capacity to compete again after all

Tiger Woods: “I was proud of that. I’m trying to get better, more efficient at what I’m doing and also I’m actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.” Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods: “I was proud of that. I’m trying to get better, more efficient at what I’m doing and also I’m actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.” Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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The umpteenth coming of Tiger Woods remains captivating viewing. So many elements of day one at the Honda Classic felt just like old times. By 9am on Thursday, Woods sat atop a leaderboard for the first time since a brief but identical position at the Wyndham Championship of 2015.

Profanity, a club slam into the turf in frustration and basic errors were among what followed but so too, crucially, was plenty of reason for encouragement. Maybe Woods, still clearly a long way short of his imperious best, has the capacity to compete after all.

Woods’s 70, level par at this Florida venue, arguably represented his boldest statement of the year. Wind whipped around the infamously testing site, where the greens are in strangely poor condition. Woods didn’t buckle, physically or competitively. The good outweighed the bad and ugly.

“I was proud of that,” said the 14-times major winner. “I’m trying to get better, more efficient at what I’m doing and also I’m actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.

“Today was not easy. It’s only going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best. It was tough all around; the wind was blowing pretty hard, the rough’s up, and it’s really tough to make putts out there. It was very positive today. It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.”

Woods had raced to two-under within four holes. He knew his leaderboard position all right. “Yeah, but there were how many holes still to go?” he later said with a smile. “Come on.” An aberration arrived at the 16th, his 7th, as he found a greenside bunker from the middle of the fairway and proved unable to retrieve par from nine feet. “Nice fucking putt” was the audible cry towards himself as he stepped from the green.

Woods remained under par until the 3rd, where his most ugly performance of the day was to ensue. He had just 165 yards left to the green, again from fairway, on this par five but tugged his approach into sand. It took a decent effort to hole out for a double bogey having tried to be overly cute with a bunker shot and being spooked by a gust of wind as he attempted what should have been a tap-in for a six.

The Woods response was admirable and perhaps unexpected. Vast galleries and cynical onlookers thought he may unravel. Instead, the 42-year-old made birdie at the 4th and was narrowly denied a move back under par on his penultimate hole.

Woods found 10 greens in regulation, seven from a possible 14 fairways and took 27 putts. The key test, of course, will arrive on Friday afternoon as he bids to maintain this early promise to the point where he survives for the weekend. “I’ve just keep on going,” he added. “I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing and give myself some [birdie]looks.”

There may be few more popular winners this week than Morgan Hoffman. The 28-year-old recently revealed he has been battling muscular dystrophy. His three-under 67 therefore drew both plaudits and intrigue.

“My diet is now extremely strict but I feel good now, I have a lot of energy,” Hoffman said. “It has been tough to deal with because health is the most important thing in my life. I went through five or six years of not knowing what the problem was. Finally I got the diagnosis, which isn’t ideal but is better than having something that’s terminal.”

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger matched Hoffman’s score with Alex Noren endorsing his growing status once more, this time courtesy of a 66.

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