The practice green and the driving range are two of the many sacred places for golf pros from the media. In 2000 at Glen Abbey I was waiting patiently for Freddie Couples with my microphone beside the practice green at Glen Abbey for about an hour along with several others, and we were all eventually blown off by a grumpy Freddie, who did offer this gem about Tiger, over his shoulder as he wandered off to the clubhouse..
"This course and every other is a par 68 to Tiger" referring to the par 5's that he reaches with regularity in 2, making 2 putt birdies a common occurrence.
Tiger went on to make the famous shot from the fairway bunker on the 18th and 72nd hole to beat Kiwi Grant Waite ( now a part time senior tour pro and fulltime teacher) to set up a birdie 4 to win his last appearance at our Canadian Open.
He played well again on at his Hero World Challenge on Friday, out in 33, but was better on the back nine and he birdied 4 of the 5 par 5's resulting in a -7 65 to move halfway up the scoreboard at his 18 man invitational, where he played as a single after Justin Rose ironically withdrew with back problems.
Looking slimmer and very fit he told the assembled press he no longer lifts weights or trains like he once does and has cut back on his running because “I’ve had four knee surgeries, three backs. My body’s been through it."
At work last night my boss Corey Burnett pumped his fist and said " Hey Tiger's back man, he shot 65 today"
Well it doesn't behoove me to disagree with the boss, but Tiger can still shoot 65 in his sleep and has done so daily in practice rounds, so doing it playing as a single in this glorified exhibition event doesn't mean he's back anymore than it means he's done if he shoots 75 today..
I will need a much larger sample size to decide how he is progressing when he gets more tournaments, more reps after Christmas.
As for the leaders, Dustin Johnson shot his second straight 66 to tie for the lead at -12 with Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama who shot a 67.
They are two shots clear of Louis Oosthuizen (67) and Matt Kuchar (67)
Matsuyama is another of the world wide stars that have emerged in Tiger's absence. He has won three of his last four outings and was 2nd in the other. Kind of Tiger like !!
So he's not back, and he's not done.. let's just say Friday was a good day... we'll see what the weekend and the months ahead bring.