A big smile lit up Tiger Woods’ face on Thursday after a final birdie putt at 18, the Tiger’s third-ranked. A few hours earlier, it was with a closed face that he advanced very concentrated at the start of the 1st where the whole world seemed to have made an appointment to attend his start to the tournament.
On every balcony on every level of the Riviera Country Club clubhouse in LA’s upscale Pacific Palisades neighborhood, everyone was straining to catch a glimpse of golf’s biggest star. Most often with arms outstretched towards the sky and in hands the sacrosanct smartphone.
Everything went almost according to plan and without a hitch, if we omit that embarrassing passage to the 10, the tricky little par 4 on the return on which Woods went from the bunker to the fairway then back into the bunker and that he had to save the bogey by returning a putt of more than 2 meters.
Above the par three holes from the end, the Tiger delivered three scratches which he has the secret to get back into the first third of the ranking 5 strokes from the leader Max Homa. A throw-in filed with the flag on par 3 of hole n°16, a right-left putt of more than 10 meters at par 5 of hole n°17, then a very big drive at 18 which put it in position ideal for unleashing a splendid 9-iron shot ending its course less than 2 meters from the hole.
Tiger Woods, statements
“I had to fight to get things to turn on my side, summarized Woods at the end of this first round completed in 69 (-2). I’m happy with how I finished”. His leg took the shock and that’s the other big lesson of the day.
He was ostensibly limping down the steep path that leads from the tee of 1 to the fairway of one of the easiest par 5s of the year on the PGA Tour. He was still limping after 18 holes, especially after having to climb the 52 steps to the clubhouse to sign his card.
I probably should have appreciated the support of the spectators a little more and been less self-centered, but there was so much going on in my head
Forced to play his second shot on tiptoe on the slope of the left embankment on the 3rd, he did pretty well.
His back and forth in the bunkers put him to the test, but he seemed less tested than last spring when he was forced to retire on the eve of the last round of the PGA Championship. It remains to be seen in what physical condition he will appear 14 hours later for the start of his second round scheduled at 7:24 a.m.
(4:24 p.m. in France). Asked about the public support and the tension linked to the expectations of his supporters, Woods confided that he mainly thought of staying in his bubble. We saw him smile with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas when the wait was sometimes a bit long but most of the time the Tiger appeared very focused.
“I haven’t played in a tournament for a long time,” he recalled. I didn’t look up too much. I was trying to calm myself down all day, to figure out what I had to do here. I probably should have appreciated the support of the spectators a little more and been less self-centered, but there was so much going on in my head.
» The three birdies at 18 in the star group of the afternoon obviously delighted the thousands of people massed around this part. They too wore a big smile after these 4 hours of perfect communion with their idol.
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