It may be the easiest course on the PGA Tour and against one of the weakest fields he's ever faced in his career, but Tiger Woods opened the Greenbrier Classic with a 2-under front nine and is actually on the first page of the leaderboard. That's an accomplishment based on where we're at with Tiger in 2015.
The Greenbrier is one of those courses that puts us on #59Watch almost every year. The birdies are out there at every hole. and a player often makes a run at breaking 60 -- Stuart Appleby posted the fifth round of 59 in PGA Tour history here in 2011. The course is especially soft this week after taking on a ton of rain. If you want to have any chance, you're going to have to post four rounds in the 60s, and probably a couple in the mid-to-low 60s.
Tiger himself said on Wednesday that you have to "keep the pedal down" from the start because PGA Tour pros are going to carve up this layout. So this is nothing like the U.S. Open challenge that battered him two weeks ago, or even Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament, but Tiger is taking advantage of the scoring opportunities.
Woods avoided that tournament-opening bogey that has plagued him at almost every event in recent years, starting with two steady pars. He then got in the red at his third hole of the day with an up-and-down from the bunker on a par-5.
Tiger Woods is 2 off the lead at the @GbrClassic. Here's his first birdie of the day (No. 12). #QuickHits http://t.co/MfNdu89OK0— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 2, 2015
Just getting in the red is a positive and he added two more birdies at the 15th and 16th to move to 3-under. He was just a shot off the lead! While his scores have been terrible in recent events, his iron play has not been all that bad. It's one of the redeeming parts of his game, and at the par-3 15th, he stuffed it from 213 yards to six feet for the birdie.
The typical 2015 form, however, crept up at the 17th, where he pushed his drive into a creek and made bogey on an easy par-5. Giving away shots at the par-5s has been a recurring problem during this awful stretch and a big part of some of those career worsts he set at The Players and then the Memorial. Here's his first nine card:
Perhaps more important than the score is that Tiger hit six of seven fairways. The birdies and a good score were going to be available even if he had to scramble from the rough, but striping it down the middle is something he can take to any venue regardless of how difficult it will be.
Greenbrier is an event that Tiger probably wouldn't consider playing when he was at the peak of his powers. But he needs reps right now and he might as well get them at a place that could boost his confidence. If it gets him in contention at a real, actual competitive PGA Tour event, then even better. If this form holds, that should happen this week in West Virginia.
A few good rounds at Greenbrier may not mean much for St. Andrews and the Open Championship, but it's an improvement and maybe a sign that Tiger is actually not that far off from competing again.
★★★SB Nation presents: Golfing with a U.S. Open champion