Tiger Woods’s first shot in public in more than three-and-a-half months came at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and it was a dud – a 4-iron that drifted into a bank at Congressional Country Club’s 10th hole, then trickled into the pond below.
But nearly five hours later, Woods – who will Thursday make the Quicken Loans National his first tournament since he underwent back surgery – was more upbeat. His game is not tight, but his back feels fine.
“I hit some loose shots today,” Woods said after he completed 18 holes in a pre-tournament pro-am. “I also hit some really good ones. Back feels good, which is nice, which is a really good sign.”
The true test will come at 8:12 a.m. Thursday morning, when Woods joins Jordan Spieth and Jason Day in the tournament’s marquee group. He began Wednesday by spraying balls off the tee, and hit only one fairway in his first nine holes. But after ripping one well right of the 18th fairway, he made an adjustment with his grip, and began striping better drives.
“That’s something we were working on last week,” he said.
He did, though, show frustration when shots went astray. After an errant tee shot at No. 8 – his 17th hole of the day – Woods grimaced and thumped his clubhead into the ground. But he said that even with Congressional’s thick rough, he didn’t have a problem aggressively attacking shots that didn’t find the fairway.
“I went for it today, just to test it and make sure,” Woods said, “and made some pretty good ones, too.”
Woods, 38, arrived at Congressional Tuesday but only hit balls on the practice range after working on his putting and chipping. The first round Thursday will be his first since March 9, the final round of the Cadillac Championship at Doral. He underwent the surgery on his back March 31, and missed the Masters and the U.S. Open.
“It was a little bit rusty,” Woods said. “I’ve got to knock off some rust and really manage my way around this golf course.”