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Tiger passes first test

Citizen Staff Writer



It was just another day, another round, another tournament, another win.

As Tiger Woods came into view, approaching the first tee in advance of the golf shot heard ’round the world, he was finishing a banana, oblivious to the increasing cheers, the standing ovation.

“I was just in my own little world,” Woods said.

Without changing expression, he touched his white cap – adorned with his own TW logo, of course – to fleetingly acknowledge the crowd.

And then Mr. Game Face, having mentally calculated the wind, the angles of the hole, the spin he wished to put on the ball, took out a 3-wood and lasered a shot down the right side of the fairway.

There were shout-outs. But, amazingly, not one person in the crowd yelled loud enough for everyone to hear, “You da maaaaaaaaaan!” Not even a “Get in the hole!”

Much more of that came later.

In any case, the PKS part of Woods’ career had begun. Post Knee Surgery.

Woods, with a few club twirls of happiness, a couple of waist bends of despair, one semi-fist pump and several naughty words after errant shots, beat Brendan Jones 3 and 2 in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday.

It was a fairly uneventful first-round (mis-)match – uneventful if not for the fact that everyone wanted to see what would happen in Woods’ re-entry into competitive golf after 253 days away from the game.

He birdied the first hole. Jones conceded an eagle putt to Tiger on the par-5 second hole.

How’s that for an answer?

Overflow crowds followed Woods, accompanied by a merry band of media members, including one who was live blogging from his Blackberry for ESPN.com.

“As I walked off the first hole, it was just mayhem because media, everyone, was just running, and I was walking amongst everybody,” Jones said.

“When I heard one of the media say, ‘All right, another nine holes to go for a 10 and 8 (victory), I gave him a bit of a spray. And then he eagled the second, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe he’s right.’ ”

Other than an eagle on the backside, the rest of Woods’ round wasn’t spectacular, not that it needed to be. He and the rest of the field spent the day wrestling with unfamiliar calculations on the greens.

They are more undulating and slower than any on any major tour – so said several golfers – and if there is one thing that makes golfers edgy, it’s something different.

But those greens are the same for everyone, and everyone had to find a way to survive, which is the order of the day in match play. Woods didn’t mess up, and he didn’t hit it far enough off course into the desert where he might have to tussle with the plentiful jumping cholla.

Woods, with his usual robotic efficiency, won on a day in which fellow No. 1 seeds Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia lost.

No. 2 seeds Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson, the 2007 champion, also made a long overseas trip to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain for almost nothing – if you consider a $45,000 consolation prize almost nothing.

Two more No. 2 seeds – Geoff Ogilvy and Phil Mickelson – needed an extra hole to stave off upsets.

Good knees or bad knees, rusty or rested, it’s just hard to win when the top 64 golfers in the world mix it up in match play.

Except that Tiger usually does win.

He is 32-6 in this event. He has more than twice as many victories as everyone else, except David Toms (23) and Davis Love III (19).

“Well, it felt like nothing had changed,” Woods said of being back on the course. “I thought I would be more nervous on that first tee.”

It was awfully fun to build Woods’ return into a major dramatic act – and, hey, its not every day that an athlete comes back accompanied by a new TV ad campaign – but this is a good time to borrow the words of NBC announcer Dan Hicks.

“Expect anything different?”

Hicks used that call when Woods birdied the 18th hole on Sunday of last summer’s U.S. Open, forcing a playoff with Rocco Mediate. Woods won the next day . . . and that was the last time he had been seen playing competitive golf until Wednesday.

New knee, long layoff . . . nothing has changed with Tiger.

No, we didn’t really expect anything different.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:




A victory Thursday each by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy would put the 19-year-old into the quarterfinal slot vs. Woods and be a dream come true for the Irish sensation. McIlroy plays Hunter Mahan on Thursday. “All I can do is concentrate on (Mahan),” McIlroy said. “And then . . . Tiger has to get through his second-round match as well. And obviously he seems to be playing pretty well. (Friday) is a long way off for the minute.”


Eagles: 1 (No. 13)

Birdies: 3 (Nos.. 1, 8, 15)

Pars: 8

Bogeys: 3 (Nos.. 3, 5, 7)

Conceded by Jones: 1 (No. 2)

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