During the second round of the NBA playoffs on Tuesday night, the Indiana Pacers let the New York Knicks go on a ridiculous run in the second half. In the game at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks stormed past the Pacers who could have easily walked off the court dejected. The thing about it was despite the poor finish, the team had taken care of business, splitting the first two games in New York and snagging home court advantage from the higher seed.
The same could be said about Tiger Woods on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. A round of golf that looked like it would be flawless come the 18th hole, Woods had 200 yards on the final par-4 and hit an 8-iron flag high, watching it roll off the back of the green and leaving him a pitch into the grain that he ended up stubbing. He chipped the next ball next to the hole, tapped in for a disappointing bogey and walked off a bit less excited than he was standing in the fairway without a square on his card.
But Tiger took care of what he needed to on Thursday at the Players Championship. The wind was down for the morning wave that saw Roberto Castro post a course record-tying 63, and there were plenty more big names that took full advantage of the mild conditions. Rory McIlroy shot a round of 66, as did Zach Johnson, and it appeared Sawgrass was for the taking in the opening round.
[Related Video: Woods in mix after opening 67]
Castro's round was just ridiculous by Sawgrass standards. The 9-under 63 put the 27-year-old in a group that includes just Greg Norman and Fred Couples as the only players to post that number on this golf course, and he did it with incredible iron play that included a near tap-in birdie on the par-3 17th.
The 63 might have been one better if Castro could have converted a 13-footer for birdie on his final hole, but his round was about as solid as it comes at Sawgrass with just one missed fairway and three missed greens in regulation.
McIlroy's round was as impressive as anything we've seen from the two-time major winner this season. Coming off a T-10 at the Wells Fargo Championship a week ago, Rory was on fire to start his opening round, making five birdies over his first eight holes and adding a sixth on his 11th hole of the day. It looked like McIlroy might be the guy to go out and post the low number of the day at that point, but his round cooled as Rory made seven straight pars to end his round including one of the par-5 9th hole.
It might be easy to focus on McIlroy, but playing partner Steve Stricker helped push the 24-year-old by matching him birdie for birdie over his first 11 holes (Stricker posted a round of 5-under 67).
[Related Video: Michael Thompson's hole-in-one]
It was up to Tiger to go out and match the morning groups, which he did with his round of 5-under 67.
Tiger said after his round that he "felt like I had to go out and shoot something in the 60s today," something he's struggled to do over the years at this golf course.
Woods winning non-major championships these days doesn't seem to impress a lot of people like it should. We saw him failing again at a major, like he did last month at Augusta National, and we wonder if he will ever get to that point where he can add to his major legacy. But him playing well at TPC Sawgrass should be example enough of a new Tiger that can still dominate like he did in the past.
We've already seen Tiger hoist three trophies in 2013 and while he isn't leading, and he did drop a shot on the final hole, he's in as good a position after 18 holes at this tournament as he has ever been.
Now Tiger gets a morning tee time at a course that usually sees the winds pick up in the afternoon. If Woods goes out on Friday and takes care of business like you'd expect, I'm sure the gap between him and Castro will continue to shrink.
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