WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS (West Virginia) • Tiger Woods shot his lowest score in 16 months, a four-under 66 that left him four strokes behind leader Scott Langley after the opening round of the Greenbrier Classic on Thursday.
Though conditions were relatively easy on Greenbrier's rain-softened Old White Course, the round was a welcome reprieve for the American golfer, whose shocking slump over the past year raised questions of whether he would ever be competitive again.
Two weeks before the British Open at St Andrews, where he has won twice, the 39-year-old former world No. 1 declared that he was "very close" to hitting top form.
"People think I'm crazy when I say I'm close but I felt like I was close," the father of two told PGATour.com after a round that included seven birdies, one bogey and a double-bogey at White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia.
"I just had to make a couple of little tweaks, and I felt like I pulled that off. It started at the Memorial, making a big (swing) change there, and then it's just finally starting to click in now.
"This past week was a good week (of practice) and today I hit the ball well all day until a couple of tee shots at the end, tugged a couple."
He described as "stupid" his double-bogey at the par-four sixth, his 15th hole, where he left his approach in the bunker, but he roared back like his old self to finish with three consecutive birdies.
"I was hitting the ball too well to end up one under," said Woods, who went on to card his best score since a five-under 65 in the third round of last year's Honda Classic.
It might be dangerous to read too much into one good round, as it has been less than four weeks since he shot the worst score of his career, an 85 at the Memorial tournament in Ohio, and then missed the cut at the US Open.
But he sounded positively giddy as he spoke to the media on Thursday, saying that the "overall pattern shift" that he had started working on at the Memorial was now starting to bear fruit.
"My feels were telling me that I wasn't that far off," he said. "I was proving it to myself time and time again away from a tournament site and on the range but my feel in my hands and my body weren't far off.
"It was just a matter of getting into a little bit of the rhythm and the flow of it, and I found that. I just had to make a couple of tweaks and I felt like I pulled that off."
"It's finally starting to click in now," he observed after he had hit 10 of the 14 fairways and required only 25 putts in the round.
While Woods understandably grabbed most of the limelight, American Langley compiled a 62 for a one-stroke lead over compatriot Jonathan Byrd and New Zealand's Danny Lee.
On a day when 95 players broke par, defending champion Angel Cabrera struggled to a 71.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
THE GREENBRIER CLASSIC
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