Golf fans wondered whether they’d see the Tiger Woods from the Tour Championship or the Tiger Woods from everything since when the 14-time major champ returned to the PGA Tour on Thursday. And in his opening round at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods looked like a hybrid of both.
Playing Torrey Pines’ South Course—the substantially tougher of the two tracks—Woods began is 2019 campaign with a two-under-par 70. And in case you missed any of it, here are seven highlights, stats, and observations that tell the story of his day.
1. The driver certainly looked in Tour Championship form. If you recall, Woods changed to a lighter shaft ahead of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, trading some distance for much improved accuracy. Woods split the opening fairway with a fade and played from the short grass—and from farther back than playing partner Tony Finau—for most of the round. He ranked T-47 in distance (296.7) and 41st in strokes gained: off-the-tee (.045).
2. While Woods’ driver was solid, his irons remain the strength of his game. Although, Woods said after he “didn’t get all his irons pin-high like I usually do,” he still gained nearly half (.745) of his total strokes gained (1.649) on approach shots like this:
Overall, Woods hit seven of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation.
3. Woods said earlier in the week he’s been experimenting with putting with the flagstick in (the most talked about of golf’s new rules this year) and we saw him do it for the first time on the par-3 eighth. Facing a downhill 45-footer for birdie, Tiger aimed at the the pin and cozied his putt to within tap-in range. He did it again from long range on the par-4 14th and two-putted for par again.
4. Woods was playing his first official round with both Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau. Even though both his younger playing partners beat him (Schauffele and Finau shot 69s), it looked like Tiger had fun.
We’re assuming any wagers this featured group has are for the two-day total.
5. Took care of the par 5s, just in slightly different fashion than you’d expect. On both No. 5 and No. 9, Woods made birdie putts from the 15-foot range:
Those were Woods’ lone two birdies on the front nine (versus one bogey on No. 2) as he made the turn in one under.
6. And the eight-time winner at Torrey Pines proved he can still conjure up some San Diego magic, particularly on No. 13, by draining his longest putt of the day:
And on No. 18 with another curler:
He didn’t quite give it that iconic double fist-pump like at the 2008 U.S. Open, but it was a strong finish. Woods struggled at times last season on par 5s, but that wasn’t the case on Thursday as he birdied all four.
7. Let’s finish on another high note with Woods’ shot of the day, a laser 5-iron from 215 yards on the par-3 11th to three feet:
Woods, Schauffele and Finau will take on Torrey Pines’ North Course at 12:30 ET on Friday. The five best scores on Thursday, led by Jon Rahm’s 62, came on the North Course.
“Shooting a couple under par on the South Course is not so bad,” Woods told Golf Channel after, “but now I’m forced to shoot a low one tomorrow.”