When Tiger Woods talked about the state his game on Tuesday, he said
that controlling the distances of his irons is a sign that he's close
to getting his feel back. If that's the case, Woods has to be happy
with his practice round Thursday morning.Woods played the back
nine Wednesday in a 7 a.m. practice round with his Orlando neighbor
Arjun Atwul and Joseph Bramlett, an amateur who just graduated from
Stanford, Woods's alma mater. (Yes, Bramlett's having a pretty cool
Woods clearly enjoyed Atwul's company, and the two
were joking and smiling while walking the fairways together. Woods also
appeared much more comfortable with his game. He found the fairway
often off the tee -- on the shorter par 4s like 15 and 16 where he can
hit 3-wood, he was right down the center with his tee shots. His
approach shots were often pin-high and within birdie range, and he
spent extra time on the greens putting to different locations.
His iron play looked sharp, especially on the 208-yard par-3 17th, which plays straight into the Pacific. He got into trouble with his driver on
18, Pebble Beach's famous risk-reward par-5, but his recovery was
vintage Woods. After pushing his drive right into a fairway bunker,
Woods punched out about 20 yards forward. Then he took a 2-iron
and hit a stinger that traveled about 240 yards to land on the green
about 30 feet left of the hole.
Even at 7 a.m. the galleries
were thick during Woods's round, but the crowds were subdued, with
little of the cheering and shouts of encouragement Woods received at
the Masters. Woods did not speak to reporters after the round. He tees
off at 4:36 p.m. EST on Thursday for his first round in a marquee Open pairing
with Lee Westwood and Ernie Els. The same group tees off in the second
round at 11:06 a.m. EST on Friday.
On Tuesday, Woods said he was looking forward to playing with Westwood and Els."I
got a great pairing this week," Woods said. "Seems like I get Westy
every major championship though. But it's neat to have Ernie in the
group. I think we're going to have a good time."