Tommy Fleetwood leads, but Tiger Woods makes competitive return

Dec 02, 2017, 15:18 IST | V Krishnaswamy

A little over 300 days after his last competitive round, Tiger Woods not spectacular, but solid. It was pain free but more importantly rekindled his competitive spirit laced with the familiar grimaces and exhortations to push himself more

A little over 300 days after his last competitive round, Tiger Woods not spectacular, but solid. It was pain free but more importantly rekindled his competitive spirit laced with the familiar grimaces and exhortations to push himself more. All that augured well for the next three days or hopefully a few years. Asked to sum up in three words, he said, "It was - how about three words?  Up and down because I had a lot of birdies, made a lot of putts.  I didn't play the par 5s very well, made two 6s and I grinded it out and made a few pars, which is nice."

Tiger Woods. Pic/AFP
Tiger Woods. Pic/AFP

He didn't mention the other stuff, like a f-word and a club smashed into a tee in anger, but generally the takeway was pleasing. He drove well, putted well, handled the often stiff crosswinds well but messed two chips and didn't kill the par-5s. On a course, which has five par-5s, Woods bogeyed two of them,  the par-5 ninth and 16th and birdied just one, the par-5 third, which was also his first birdie of the comeback. So, that was one-over for the quintet of par-5s. Put together it left him at 69 and raised the feeling of 'if only.."

Woods was three off the lead, held by long-haired Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who didn't mind being under the radar as he carded 66 amidst the tension of an upcoming marriage on Tuesday, a young baby and lots of jet lag, the result of jet setting through seven countries, including Bahamas over the past 10 weeks. Fleetwood was bogey free for his 66 while playing his sixth consecutive week in a fifth country. Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler are one behind and Justin Rose is Tied-4th with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Chappell on 68. Woods with playing partner Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari and Charley Hoffman are on 68 and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama was three-over through 13 before four birdies on the trot from 14th to 17th saw him sign in with 71.

Back to Woods. By the time he signed the card, he was like Woods of the past – thinking about winning. Does he now believe he can win? "Yes." Did the first round fully endorse that feeling? Another "Yes." He added, "It was not only nice to get the first round out of the way but I'm only three shots off the lead. So to be able to put myself there after not playing for 10 months or so … it was nice to feel the adrenaline.

On Thursday Fleetwood handled the windy conditions well. He found 15 of the 18 greens, 10 of the 13 fairways and needed 28 putts to go around as winds gusted as much as 25 miles per hour at times. The long-haired and travel weary Fleetwood was happy to play second fiddle, as he long as he has a chance to win an early wedding gift. He has left the wedding preparations to the would-be bride, saying, "Well, Clare's in charge and she has picked out the venue, so it's like ceremony, then dinner and then party at our villa.  Yeah, I'll make sure I know come Tuesday morning where I'm going."

He admitted to some jet lag and attending to duties around his young son, saying, "It's obviously a lot of energy management stuff, there's not much going to the gym this week. There's jet lag in there so I've been up early the last few mornings with the baby as well, so there's plenty to do in the mornings." What about this morning? "(Woke up at) 4:00 am, I think.  Frankie (son) woke up so then I feed and then got him back up and we were just really puttering about. I had a bit of toast and then a couple hours later we woke up again and had more play time and then came here." If Fleetwood keeps it like that there could be another nice trophy in the cabinet on Sunday to go along with the Race to Dubai silverware.

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