You didn't really expect him to win, did you?
Tiger Woods returned to action at the Quicken Loans National for his first tournament since back surgery, his first competitive play since early March. He cautioned that he'd be rusty, and he was indeed that: maybe not tractor-left-to-the-elements-for-a-generation rusty, but certainly needing-more-than-an-oil-can rusty. Playing the notoriously devilish Congressional Country Club, Woods, with a +7, missed the cut by a large margin, but then that wasn't really the point: at his own tournament, it was enough that he just showed up.
After a choppy first day that saw him finish at +3 and right on the edge of the projected cut, Woods began the day with four straight pars and seemed wobbly, but steady enough to make a run at the weekend. His driver was working just fine, and his short game, while jittery and held together with duct tape, was enough to keep him in the hunt.
And then came the 5th, in which an errant approach and a plugged lie resulted in a double-bogey. That sent the wheels of the Tiger Bandwagon skidding on the gravel by the side of the road. Two holes later, everything fell apart. Beginning with a bogey on the eighth, Woods started a streak of crooked scores that would last for seven straight holes: bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey (4x). Even Woods' personal Twitter tracker couldn't find good news in this Dumpster fire:
Giving the guy a break, happy to have him back. But that chip was absolutely horrendous. 12 feet short. So not good.
— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) June 27, 2014
A birdie on 16 restored a tiny measure of pride, but it was the equivalent of an after-credits teaser long after the main show had run its catastrophic course. Woods missed another easy birdie chance on 17, then limped in with a final par to close with a 75.
On the plus side, of course, Woods seemed to put to rest concerns about his back:
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) June 27, 2014
So what's next? This was largely a promotional bump for the Quicken Loans National, whose beneficiary is the Tiger Woods Foundation, and for that purpose, the return worked beautifully. But Woods doesn't yet seem to be in professional game shape, particularly inside 100 yards. That touch will be critical if he's going to make any kind of noise at the Open Championship next month, Woods' stated goal.