Woods comeback hits uneven ground
The latest Tiger Woods comeback embraced the good, the bad and the ugly as the former world number one laboured to a one-over-par 71 in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational second round.
A day after making a good start on his long-awaited return to competition, Woods struggled for consistency with a mixture of four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey in hot and humid conditions at Firestone Country Club.
Sidelined for three months because of leg injuries, Woods began the round six shots behind pacesetting Australian Adam Scott and he ended it at one-under 139, seven strokes off the lead in a tie for 36th in an elite field of 76.
Perhaps the most encouraging signs for the 14-times Major champion were his generally smooth tempo and his ability to follow dropped shots with birdies at the next hole.
"I know my stats don't show it, but just the way I'm driving the golf ball ... I'm so close to putting the ball on a string," Woods, who hurt his left knee ligaments and Achilles tendon during this year's Masters, said.
"Unfortunately I just didn't make as many putts today, but I'm close to putting it together."
For the second consecutive round, Woods said he struggled with his distance control.
"I got so much more compression and the ball is just going," he added. "I've just got to get used to that and trust the number. I'm hitting the ball numbers I've never hit before."
Champion at Firestone a record seven times, Woods teed off on the back nine where several of the early starters had gorged themselves on birdies in the first three holes.
However, he was unable to pick up a shot over that stretch and missed a 10-foot birdie attempt at the par-three 12th.
His first bogey of the day came as a shock to the huge galleries watching his every move. After driving into a fairway bunker at the par-four 14th, Woods laid up in the fairway with his second shot before hitting a superb approach which spun back within two feet of the hole.
Remarkably, he missed the putt as his ball rammed into the back of the cup before lipping out.
The fans packed around the green, two of them holding a banner which read "WELCOME BACK TIGERRRRR", groaned and Woods stepped away in disbelief before returning to tap in for bogey.
The former world number one, whose ranking has slipped to 28th, also dropped a shot at the par-three 15th where his tee shot ended up in the left fringe from where he chipped up to seven feet and missed the par putt.
Overall, though, Woods was swinging smoothly and he immediately recovered with successive birdies.
After laying up in two at the par-five 16th, he executed a precise wedge approach which left his ball 10 feet from the cup and he calmly rolled in the putt.
At the par-four 17th, his approach was even better and his ball bit into the receptive green before settling five feet from the flagstick. After Woods knocked in the putt to get back to two under overall, the spectators whistled their approval.
Woods came agonisingly close to recording a third consecutive birdie at the par-four 18th but his attempt from eight feet lipped out as he reached the turn in level-par 35.
However, the 35-year-old American could not maintain that momentum on his homeward nine.
He bogeyed the fourth after failing to reach the green in two but then knocked in an eight-footer to birdie the par-three fifth.
Worse was to follow when he double-bogeyed the sixth after missing the fairway badly off the tee and three-putting from long range.
Once again, though, he responded immediately by rolling in a 21-foot putt to birdie the par-three seventh before parring the last two holes to finish at one under overall.