Tiger Woods told us on Wednesday he was probably more familiar with the progress he was making with his game than were the hordes of folks assessing it from afar. Turns out -- at least through his first 18 holes at the Greenbrier Classic -- that the owner of the most analyzed golf swing in the history of the game knew whereof he spoke.
Tiger Woods is 2-under thru 6. Is he trying to ruin Brandel Chamblee's birthday or what?— Scott Michaux (@ScottMichaux) July 2, 2015
"I know what I am doing out here on the golf course," Woods said on Wednesday after a stellar practice round and ahead of an equally impressive opening round at the Greenbrier Classic. "I know what it feels like. I know where my game is and what progress I have or haven't made. That’s what I'm concerned about."
Woods, who said he paid no attention to the arm-chair punditry, surprised pretty much everyone in the golf world by posting a 4-under 66 that put him four shots behind 18-hole leader Scott Langley heading into Friday.
When word starts to spread that Tiger Woods has hit consecutive fairways and is under par for the day... https://t.co/f7k0vZJfGK #GoTiger— Your Golf Travel (@yourgolftravel) July 2, 2015
"Forget you guys and everybody else out there," said Woods after just his 17th round of the year. "It's about winning golf tournaments and putting myself up there consistently, and that's why I've made the changes, to put myself up there consistently."
The only flaws on his scorecard were a bogey on the par-5 17th and a double on the par-4 sixth (he started on No. 10). But Tiger finished off his first competitive round since the missed cut at the U.S. Open two weeks ago with three consecutive one-putts for birdies and a 4-under 66.
Woods scored back-to-back-to-back birdies to finish a round for the first time since the 2010 U.S. Open. It was also the best score since a third-round 66 at Doral in March 2014 for the 79-time PGA Tour winner, who found 10-of-14 fairways, 14-of-18 greens, and needed just 25 putts on a track he found far more to his liking than Chambers Bay.
"I felt like I wasn't that far away," Woods said after just his 17th round of the year. "I know people think I'm crazy for saying that, but I just felt like I wasn't that far. I just had to make a couple little tweaks, and I felt like I pulled that off."
Woods, who missed the cut at the Greenbrier in 2012, the only other time he has played the event, showed almost no signs of the two-way miss off the tee that has marked his starts since he overcame the chipping yips earlier in the year.
He kicked off the day with two pars and then made his first of seven birdies on the 568-yard, par-5 12th. He dropped a stroke on the 616-yard, par-5 17th when he rinsed his drive in a water hazard on the right and missed a 15-foot par putt.
The only other real trouble he found was on the 471-yard, par-4 sixth, and it was a doozie. He hooked his drive, with the ball landing in the rough behind a tree. His second shot hit the tree and the ball ricocheted into a bunker. He bladed his next attempt over the green and onto the next tee, left a flop shot short and eventually carded a six.
Woods rebounded spectacularly with those three round-ending birdies.
"I wasn’t that far off," he said. "Even though my scores don't indicate it, my swings don't indicate it, but my feels were telling me that I wasn't that far off. 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 just getting into a little bit of the rhythm and the flow of it," he said, "and I found that."
As Woods has struggled mightily with his game, he has done so in the harsh glare of television cameras following his every move. Such scrutiny was missing from his early-morning turn around The Old White on Thursday.
Can Tiger maintain his momentum and make his fourth cut of the year when Golf Channel picks him up somewhere on his back nine after he takes the field Friday afternoon? He is scheduled to tee off at 1:10 p.m. ET with Steve Stricker and David Lingmerth, so stay tuned.
SB Nation presents: Urban golfing with Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open champ