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Friday, December 5, 2014

Better Than It Seemed

Yeah, he's at the back of the pack. Yeah, he shot a 77. Yeah, he chipped like a rank amateur. If you want more details, you can check out this article about his round.

Still, after a 4-month layoff to recoup from a bad back, I think Tiger's round was better than it seemed.

Tiger at Isleworth

Tiger's long game got off to a rough start but looked pretty good on the back 9. He hit all the fairways there -- when do you last remember him doing that? -- and 7 of the 9 greens.

True, his chipping was horrendous. Playing partner Jason Day said he was as surprised as Tiger because his chipping seemed fine during their practice round. Perhaps it was a matter of adrenaline, but I suspect it's just the nature of swing changes.

Tiger is trying to focus more on feel now and less on mechanics but I can tell you from experience that, even if your chipping technique doesn't change, making a swing change still affects it. You get used to a certain relationship between your short game technique and your full swing technique, and any change to one makes the other feel really weird. I've always had a pretty good short game but the last time I played, it gave me fits. The swing changes I've made this year, although they actually make my full swing more like my short game swings, totally messed up the way my wrist action felt. It takes a little time to get your mind to adjust.

I thought it was kinda funny that, in the after-round media appearance, Tiger seemed a bit surprised (but happy) that his back wasn't hurting. It's easy for us to forget how much the back surgery affected Tiger and how much of a victory it is just for him to be back on the course this soon.

But I won't be surprised if Tiger's game is pretty good by Sunday. His full swing looks the most relaxed it has looked in years and, as he said, his back didn't hurt despite taking some pretty hard swings out there. Give him a couple of days to get used to the rush of competition again -- and maybe the grainy Florida grass of Isleworth -- and he may just surprise everybody by dropping a lot of rust real fast.

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