Tiger Woods said he felt no ill effects after his first round of tournament golf following an almost four-month layoff caused by knee and Achilles tendon injuries.
Woods enters today’s second round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, six shots behind Adam Scott, who is using Woods’s former caddie, Steve Williams. Scott is one stroke ahead of fellow Australian Jason Day.
“I went out there and just let it go, let it rip,” Woods told reporters yesterday after shooting a 2-under-par 68 at the course where he’s won seven times. “It felt awesome.”
American Nick Watney is third at 5 under and is followed by nine players, including 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink, at 4 under. Phil Mickelson is one of five players at 3 under.
Woods had three birdies and a bogey over his final nine holes after beginning with nine straight pars. He said his biggest issue is learning to control how far he hits his irons because his swing speed has changed since he began working with coach Sean Foley.
“Now I’m swinging easier,” Woods said. “I’m not even hitting it hard yet and that’s what’s fun. I’m hitting it farther without any more effort.”
Woods’s last competitive round was May 12, when he pulled out of the Players Championship after nine holes. The former world No. 1, who has dropped to 28th in the Official World Golf Ranking during his absence from the U.S. PGA Tour, said he doesn’t need to favor his knee or ankle, having completed his rehabilitation.
‘Time to Go’
“I’ve done all the work, I’ve done all the training, I’ve done all the lifting,” Woods said. “It’s time to go.”
The 14-time major champion is playing with childhood friend Bryon Bell as his caddie after firing Williams last month. Woods said he had to calculate his own yardages yesterday. Scott said Williams’s prior success at the course with Woods helped him.
“He has a really great knowledge of this golf course,” Scott said. “He didn’t think it was a big deal to shoot 62. It was normal.”
Woods’s layoff hasn’t stopped Las Vegas bettors from wagering on him. He began the tournament with 20-1 odds to win, tied for fifth best in the field of 77 players, even though he hasn’t won a title since the Australian Masters 21 months ago. He’s been the most popular golfer at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Race and Sports Book, picked on more than 10 percent of tickets.
The four-time U.S. PGA Championship winner is listed as the fifth favorite at 20-1 for that event next week, trailing Masters champion Rory McIlroy, Mickelson, world No. 2 Lee Westwood and the top-ranked Luke Donald.
A year ago, Woods finished next to last at Firestone after shooting 18 over par, his worst 72-hole score as a professional. He said that’s unlikely to be repeated this year.
“There’s no reason why I should be worried out there,” he said. “I’ve got the competitive feel now.”