THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Tiger Woods had just blistered a 275-yard 3-wood straight at the flag, his ball settling on a shelf some 25 feet behind the hole, when a fan bellowed what many were thinking:
"That's the Tiger I know from '08, Torrey Pines! You're back!"
At the Chevron World Challenge pro-am on Wednesday the only people keeping score were the amateurs. Still, both Woods and his coach Sean Foley will take progress wherever they can get it. Shots like Tiger's second into the 580-yard, par-5 12th, which set up a two-putt birdie, impressed more than just the odd excitable fan. What's more, they were plentiful.
At the 570-yard, par-5 16th hole, Woods smashed a 3-wood well past the bunkers, his ball cutting just the right amount to leave him a perfect 4-iron into the green. His second shot never left the flag and cozied up to less than four feet from the cup. Using the Nike Method putter he experimented with at the British Open and Australian Masters earlier this year, Woods made the putt for eagle.
The 14-time major winner is coming to the end of the first winless season of his 14-year career and is in the midst of making a swing change, his fourth major overhaul as a pro. He has seen the change pay dividends only for one or two rounds at a time, such as at the recent Ryder Cup and the Australian Masters. The next step, he's said, is to put together four good rounds in a row when it counts.
A victory this week would be Tiger's first since the 2009 Australian Masters over a year ago.
(Photo: Reed Saxon/AP)