Most of Tiger Woods' Thursday at The Players could be described as surviving, but as he walked off the 17th green with a par, it looked like he might do something he'd never done before: Break 70 in the first round and go bogey free at Sawgrass.
Neither would happen after his tee ball on the always tough 18th found the water, and a bogey forced Woods to "settle" for a 2-under 70. Usually disappointed after a finish like that, Tiger has to be ecstatic that he managed to pull his game together long enough to get out of Thursday with a score.
As we all know, Tiger is a fighter on the golf course, and his mission at The Players was to prove that the missed cut at Quail Hollow a week ago would remain a fluke. Tiger grinded on Monday and Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass in hopes of finding an inkling of his golf game, and through 17 holes Thursday he had it. He hit 64 percent of his fairways, nearly 13 percent more than his average in 2010, and was able to find 78 percent of his greens in regulation.
While a few shots were still very loose (namely the second shot into 16 that sailed so far left of the green that Tiger struggled to save par), it was manageable, a word not common in the Tiger-golf vernacular. But that is what he must deal with right now, as his tee shots have continually missed fairways and his putts rolling lips.
A guy that used to get all the breaks on and off the golf course has had to suffer the last six months not getting any, no matter if most were deserved.
What is the biggest difference from the 2010 Tiger and the one we used to know and love? That came on the 17th, a hole that has always maintained a rocky relationship with Woods. Tiger plopped his shot 12 feet below the hole, as good a spot as you can be on that green. Standing over a birdie putt that it seemed Woods always used to make, he came up short and settled for par before ending with a bogey.