Fowler: For Tiger Woods, mediocrity is a vast improvement

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comMay 3, 2012 

Tiger Woods wasn’t great Thursday. But he wasn’t awful, either, and that constituted a vast improvement from his last appearance at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Woods shot a 71 Thursday, leaving him six strokes off the lead after the first round. But it was a far sight better than 2010, the last time he played Quail Hollow Club for real, when Woods shot a second-round 79 and missed the cut by a whopping eight strokes.

“It’s still within reach, obviously,” Woods said after his round on Thursday. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got some rain coming in here, probably over the weekend, so we’re going to have to go get it. The scores are going to be probably a lot lower.”

Woods said he was pleased he was able to make “the in-game adjustments,” necessary when he opened with a thud. His back nine (34) was better than his front (37) and he seemed to build a bit of momentum heading into Friday.

As always, Woods’ appearance on a golf course caused some interesting fan behavior. As he walked to the first tee before a crowd of thousands, at least three fans held up smartphones to take his picture – a violation of course policy. As marshals told the fans to put their phones down, one lady piped up: “You’re not supposed to be taking pictures!”

When the man taking them expressed some displeasure, she said, “Well, you also happened to walk and stand right in front of me.”

Right before Woods hit his first shot of the day, another fan’s cell phone went off in his pocket. As the fan scurried away to general anger, one lady shrieked: “Are you kidding me?”

Woods didn’t seem to be bothered. His first shot split the fairway. But from there began his ragged front nine. With a straight shot to the green from 150 yards, Woods overshot the green – “I flubbed it,” he said – and then couldn’t get up and down, leading to an opening-hole bogey.

Woods made a 23-foot birdie putt (his longest of the day) on the second hole. He settled down after that and fought his way through a nondescript round (often using a 2-iron off the tee). Playing partner Webb Simpson of Charlotte, meanwhile, was slicing up the course with a 65 that would give him a share of the first-day lead.

But Woods didn’t seem too down about the round and he did putt decently. It was good to see him back in Charlotte – he pulled out in 2011 due to injury. And this time he at least looks like he will make the cut (although, he will have to play a lot better than he did Thursday to actually contend).

Woods has now played the Wells Fargo championship six times in its 10-year history. Before the missed cut of 2010, he had finished among the top dozen players every time. In his five previous attempts, he finished tied for third, tied for 11th, first (in 2007) and fourth.

To get near the lead this time, he’s probably going to have to shoot a 65 or so at some point – a lot of low scores are out there for the taking. Woods needs to grab one of them. It would make everything around Quail Hollow more electric.

Fowler: 704-358-5140; sfowler@charlotteobserver.com

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