Watch: Tiger Woods hits horrible shank at Genesis Invitational

Tiger Woods after shanking his approach to Riviera's 18th
Tiger Woods sprayed the ball into the trees from the fairway of the 18th hole - Getty Images/Michael Owens

Tiger Woods aimed to shock everyone on his competitive return on Thursday but even he did not envisage achieving that ambition by performing one of the most magnificent shanks in the history of professional golf.

The 48-year-old, playing in his first official tournament for 10 months, was looking for a birdie on the 18th to take him under par after a topsy-turvy opening round at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.

Yet, even the most perverse script-writer in the nearby Los Angeles film studio would not have dreamt up the horror of the “approach” shot from 176 yards.

The eight iron travelled directly east, some 70 yards into the trees. Tinsel Town suddenly turned silent. Woods dropped his club in disgust, but could have been forgiven for throwing it towards the Hollywood sign.

Typical of the man, Woods enacted a remarkable recovery from the woodland and kept the damage to a bogey five. “Oh, definitely, I shanked it,” Woods admitted, before providing the medical explanation. “Well, my back was spasming the last couple holes and it was locking up. I came down and it didn’t move and I presented hosel first and shanked it.”

This is not the first Woods enactment of the scourge of the weekend hacker. In 2006, he famously dispatched an Isosceles type-angle in a regular Tour event and the late Peter Alliss on the broadcast wondered “why oh why, has he changed a swing that has brought him so much success?”. Woods proceeded to win two majors that year, so maybe it is not best to judge an icon – even if he is a shanker.

Neither might it pay to ridicule Woods’s reasoning for the “S-Word”. This is only his sixth official event in nearly exactly three years since the car crash in this very city almost cost him his right leg.

In the circumstances, it is remarkable, that Woods, who has also undergone multiple spinal surgeries over the years, can still tee it up in elite golf. When asked to account for the spasm, he curtly replied: “Because my back’s fused.”

The risky procedure in 2017 handed Woods an extended golf life but clearly reduced flexibility in his swing. Less than two years later, Woods won the Master for his 15th major. Laugh away, but he is a hard character to ridicule in strictly golf terms.

In truth, this one-over round, while disappointing, was hardly disastrous, despite leaving him eight off the early lead set by fellow American Patrick Cantlay. Woods was playing with Justin Thomas, the two-time major champion, and equalled his 72.

And Woods’s first hole since double-bogeying the seventh during the third round of the Masters last April – before his injuries forced him to withdraw and require more surgery – was actually a birdie.

Woods missed the fairway on the par-five, and then was in the rough after his second as well, but a great chip set him up for the four. The helter skelter continued thereforth, accompanying him all the way to the clubhouse.

Bogeys on the second and third were followed by birdies on the fourth and sixth that took him back under par. So it continued. There were only seven pars.

“This was impossible to prepare for,” Woods said. “I rely so much on experience and having done this a long time, but still having the adrenaline dump in the system, the ball goes further, the speed goes up and just the yardages are a little bit different than they are at home. That’s just a part of playing competitive golf.”

And on the 18th, he had the quality of the recovery to send him to bed in a happy mood. “I had a small window [through the trees] there – 96 [yards] front, – and tried to hit a punch hook 8-iron after I’d just shanked an eight-iron,” he said. “So I told myself, ‘all right, the next shot’s supposed to be the harder’. And yes, it was. But I pulled it off. Which is good.”

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