Tiger Woods’s first shot in public in more than three-and-a-half months came at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, 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 Thursday will 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, 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.
Woods, 38, arrived at Congressional on 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 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.”
The group of players who attended a White House reception Tuesday night in honor of the Presidents Cup raved about the experience, particularly meeting President Obama and getting a chance to spend time in the Oval Office.
“I was blown away,” said Bill Haas, whose win at Congressional last year helped him earn his spot on the American team.
Obama, in a brief speech in the East Room, joined Vice President Biden and House Speaker John Boehner in welcoming both teams. Obama said he got a tip from Phil Mickelson on his sand game and ribbed Spieth for owning just one suit — the suit he wore to the event.
“To see the real thing was quite amazing,” South African Ernie Els said. “People could not have been nicer.”
There were, though, some hijinks. As some players wandered around the Oval Office, Mickelson asked whether he could have one of the apples sitting in a jar on the president’s desk.
“So the president lost about 20 apples out of his jar,” Els said. “We walked around the Oval Office eating apples and just feeling it.” . . .
William McGirt pulled out of the tournament Wednesday, allowing alternate Hudson Swafford into the field. England’s Lee Westwood, a former world No. 1 who committed to the tournament in May, previously withdrew because of a shoulder injury.