As expected, Tiger Woods was both spectacular and so-so in his first tournament since April and fourth over the last two and a quarter years. With brisk weather helping the otherwise-inviting championship course of the Albany Golf Club in The Bahamas present more of a challenge yesterday, he looked flustered and rusty in posting a 75 marked by five bogeys against just two birdies. Considering that he put up a heady 68 the day before, he was understandably disappointed.
To be sure, Woods was not alone in hitherto waxing optimistic about his comeback. With booming drives and confident putts back in his arsenal, he showed significant improvement through his first two rounds in the Ernie Els-designed layout. The 69 and 68 he signed for certainly belied his world ranking and reflected both the intrinsic talent he possessed and the extent of his convalescence. Which was why other players could not help but keep tabs on him and be buoyed by his progress.
That said, it was fair for skeptics to wonder about Woods’ stamina. And, in this regard, his output yesterday showed his need for more reps before being declared in tip-top shape. He labored through the excess of wind inside the ropes, and seemingly with a lack of it inside his lungs. And for all the strength he showed off the tee, he struggled with accuracy, compelling him to scramble time and again, to mixed results. Meanwhile, his deft touch on the greens was offset by his tentativeness off them.
No matter how Woods does today, though, it’s clear that he’s back. And the scary part is that he will get better with time. He’s already swinging without restraint, as if he didn’t go under the knife to repair a damaged back for a fourth time a mere 10 months ago, as if he didn’t fret about his future in early October. And he’s not just pain-free; he’s worry-free — as best an indication as any that his return to form is a matter of when, not if.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.