One of the phrases that Tiger Woods has stuck with his entire career is, "if I'm teeing it up, I'm playing to win."
That changed with his unexpected return to the PGA Tour after back surgery, announcing to the world that he will play in his own event this week at Congressional but saying during his Tuesday news conference that he probably wouldn't be back if not for the tournament's affiliation with his foundation.
On Thursday, it was apparent that Woods isn't in form to win, but he showed signs of positivity as he closed out the opening round of the Quicken Loans National. Woods posted a 3-over 74, not bad considering he was 6-over at one point on his back nine and sitting alone in last place on the leaderboard.
The opening nine for Woods was a mixture of loose approach shots and weak touch around the green. Woods missed five greens on his opening nine holes, failing to get up-and-down once to save par. His lone birdie on the front nine kept him from posting a 40 to start, but it was his second nine that showed signs of promise.
Tiger made two early bogeys to get to 6-over, but birdied three of his final six holes on Thursday to get back to a respectable number on a difficult golf course.
What do we make of Tiger's first start since March 9? It was probably a B- effort, nothing spectacular for Woods but definitely a good sign with the way he finished and the four birdies he made.
Tiger averaged nearly 300 yards per drive on Thursday with the longest going 332, so the power is still there, it's just the rust on his short game that left him a few over par on Day 1.
As Woods has preached for years with those swing changes, "it's a process," and this return will be very much one as well. It wasn't the Tiger Woods we are used to seeing on Thursday, but it was definitely a man who is out there excited to play and ready to get back to form.
I bet we see a sharper Woods on Friday.
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