I had plenty of time to think about Tiger's return to the game of golf as I drove the 500 miles from LA to Tucson yesterday. For me the lingering question about Tiger was not his health. I mean, geez, worst case he'd still be healthier than at the US Open, which he won. To me the question was his ability to trust his new swing in competition.
And yes, it is (subtly) new. The best way to describe it is that his lower body is quieter. With a healthier left leg, Tiger has to do less to create speed. And when there are less moving parts, control could only increase. IF he could trust it.
And he did. Tiger had more control off the tee than I ever saw last year. He missed three fairways total -- and none by more than 5 yards. The closest he came to finding the desert was with his opening 3-wood off the 1st tee. But a nice kick to the left found the fairway, and Tiger was off. A birdie. Then an eagle. Welcome back.
Here are a few random moments of the day that TV had to miss:
1) Putting Green. Tiger added a bizarre drill to his warm-up whose purpose I don't quite get. He stood three feet from the cup and stroked the straight putt into the hole... and then held his finish. With his head down. FOR EIGHT SECONDS. Just when I think Tiger is not a robot, he does something like that.
2) The amateur golf fans were out in force today. My favorite line, which I heard plenty today, was this: "Is it Tiger's turn to shoot?" Strangest thing I heard called out: "Hey Tiger, let me take you catfishing!"
3) After putting Brendan Jones dormie (4 down with 4 to play), Tiger arrived at the 15th tee to find the group in front of him still waiting to tee off. Obviously wanting to keep his momentum and finish off Jones, Tiger had no choice but to laugh and take a seat. The problem with choosing a cooler as your seat on a hot day in Tucson is you'll have to get up a lot. When the wave of photographers came through, Tiger opened the cooler for them and said, "I'm buying." When Brendan Jones came over, Tiger stood up again. As Jones' water dribbled on the cooler, Tiger stared at him and said with a half-grin, "Wipe that up." Thankfully, Jones just laughed.
Above is a picture from 15 tee. Yes, that guy with the rolled-up sleeves looks quite creepy.