Tiger Strong In Return To Course
Leave it to funnyman David Feherty to put the first day of the Tavistock Cup into the proper context.
When a supposedly rehabbing Tiger Woods hammered a drive down the first fairway Monday at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Feherty, emceeing the annual made-for-TV exhibition, cracked: “Well, nothing fell off him. ”
What a difference eight days made. When last we saw Woods on a golf course, on March 11 at Doral, he needed a cart to make it to the parking lot, he slipped into a black Mercedes, he cracked open the window and he gave a PGA Tour official a two-word answer: left leg. Later, in a statement released by his camp, he clarified: left Achilles.
Oh, that left Achilles. The same left Achilles that Tiger injured during the third round of the 2011 Masters. The same left Achilles that forced him to miss two majors last season.
Predictably, the reaction two Sundays ago ranged from the absurd (He could be out for the season! ) to the understated (It’s just a precaution! ). A day after the WD, Tiger tweeted that he received good news from the doctor, that it was just a mild strain, and said he would be able to hit balls later in the week. He did on Friday, and pronounced himself fit to continue his 2012 season. Rarely is there a dull week with Tiger.
On Monday, at the ninth annual Tavistock Cup, Albany’s most famous team member took some injury-related ribbing from Feherty. That was to be expected.
“Many players arrived here in a helicopter,” the gregarious CBS/Golf Channel personality said, “but (Tiger) came here in an ambulance. ”
Woods keeled over and had a good laugh, as did the few hundred fans huddled around the first tee. Ten minutes later, after a perfect drive and a razor-sharp iron shot, he tapped in from 2 feet for an opening birdie. Cancel the career obituary.
It’s dangerous to overanalyze an exhibition round. The score he and partner Justin Rose shot in the best-ball format (9-under 63, with Woods making six birdies on his own ball) is insignificant. The best players in the world should make birdies when the pressure is minimal, the stakes low.
But don’t underestimate what we saw from Woods on Monday. He wore the same natural-motion Nike shoes that he had pre-Achilles scare. He walked without a limp. He never flinched at impact, never grimaced after a tee shot. He looked, well, normal — which is about the best thing you can say during this, his final week of competition before the Masters.
“I did the smart thing and the prudent thing this time, not trying to play through it,” Woods said afterward. “Hence, I’m back here as fast as I am. ”
It’s important to remember this was only Day 1 of seven consecutive days of competition. Starting Thursday, he will play the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, an event he has won six times. Woods looked fine on Monday, but how will his brittle body be holding up on Saturday, or on Sunday? Will he feel his Achilles then?
The fact that he’s even attempting to play this week answers that question, resoundingly. You don’t risk injury with the Masters now two weeks away.