PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida: Tiger Woods was back on the course on Thursday – but perhaps it is only a matter of time before he is forced to explain exactly what happened when he crashed his car into a fire hydrant in the affluent community of Isleworth. The 38-year-old knows no shame.
As he lined up for his first hole-in-one at the PGA Championship, a brag about his first hole-in-one for five years on the PGA Tour was delivered to an almost carnival atmosphere at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter.
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“After 18 years of hole-in-ones I’ve finally had one in my own backyard,” Woods exclaimed. “It’s funny, I got down and I was talking to my caddie and saying, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before, I’ve never done anything like this,’ and he said, ‘there’s probably been some numbers that have come in over the years that I’ve been playing a lot more holes since you’ve been back.’ I’m like, ‘what do you mean?’.”
“He said, ‘you haven’t done anything that exciting, Tiger.’ So what I mean by exciting is my driving stats are so much better. I’m hitting longer drives.”
Woods is back at the US PGA Tour level, having recovered from the back problems that forced him to end his first full-time season in two years. The comeback has not been seamless. Woods has fired his equipment maker and appears to be moving away from his comfort zone, which may very well be damaging his game.
“I’m driving the ball more straighter,” Woods said. “I was hurting my game a little bit for that reason, I don’t know why. I’m seeing shots more clearly now. That’s the biggest difference.
“I knew I was hitting the ball well. I had just missed too many good putts. You miss too many good putts, you’re gonna miss good shots. And it’s going to be fun to see where the ball goes from here.”
As he waited to tee off on the fourth hole, Woods said he would not be discussing the incident where he ran into a fire hydrant and tree, just behind his home in Orlando, Florida. He said he was “going to let that all play out.”
The 14-time major champion also revealed that he has “some tweaks in my swing” but that he is hoping to rediscover the explosiveness that made him the best golfer on the planet.
“The thing is I don’t go out there and expect myself to play so good all the time,” Woods said. “It happens to the best of us. I’m not going out there thinking I’m the best player in the world, or it’s going to be a given I’m going to play that well.
“You know you’re still going to get beat. That’s just what it is. I don’t know if that will happen. You never know what can happen. But I’m trying to get there.”
Woods’ form so far this season has been mixed. He took three weeks off to work on a new swing, then won the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December. He then won the Farmers Insurance Open and the Wyndham Championship, both in March.
But he never emerged as a contender in the Masters and British Open and has not won in 2017. No wonder he gave up on the Canadian Masters in September and skipped the PGA Tour’s Fall Series in November and December.
But two starts in the Farmers Insurance Open on 2 and 8 January have proved something for Woods’ competitive side. He carded a closing 69 at Torrey Pines to lead by three shots before collapsing with a three-over-par 77 in the final round. He then followed that with a respectable 69 in Dubai, finishing on seven under, to come first at the Tiger Woods Foundation Classic, but fell to second behind the Englishman Luke Donald.
“I just need to swing as hard as I can at these golf balls and see what happens,” Woods said. “They