COMMENTARY | Tiger Woods is officially back, and for anyone who thinks otherwise, his performance on Thursday demonstrated as much.
Woods is in striking distance at The 2012 U.S. Open Golf Championship, where after firing a 1-under 69, he trails the current leader, Michael Thompson, by three shots at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
No one makes the sports world buzz with excitement more than the former world No. 1. If he manages to navigate the difficult course for the remaining three rounds and comes out on top, then golf and the PGA TOUR will receive such a jolt of interest, that it will cause a media and fan frenzy -- much like the one that occurred when Woods announced his arrival in 1997.
The course tested every aspect of Woods' game, both physically and mentally. There was no room for error in any aspect, and the course made the world's best players often look like amateurs. That speaks to the difficulty of its setup, and just how well Woods is playing to be able to overcome it. The fact that he's in contention is not by accident. He's in complete control of his new golf swing.
There were signs of the old Tiger during Round 1. The powerful grouping of Woods, 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson, and Phil Mickelson lived up to its top billing on the first day. Mickelson and Watson struggled, and it was Woods who appeared to intimidate his playing partners much like he used to in his most dominant stretches as a professional. In the past, when Woods was on top of his game and playing well, everyone in the field knew it.
Usually, it had an effect on their games.
That seemed to be the case on Thursday within the day's most notable group. Watson would finish with an 8-over 78 while Mickelson shot a 6-over 76. There was a fear factor about the course, and every player in the field seemed to succumb to it. Woods, though, would rise above it, and join a select group of just six players who would finish under par.
Currently tied for second place, Woods has plenty of work to do to win his first major in four years, but what is often golf's most drama-filled tournament will be better off with him in contention through Sunday's final round.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the PGA TOUR. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. Follow him on Twitter for more insight.
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- Tiger Woods
- Bubba Watson
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