Winning the Masters answered golf's most pressing question over the past decade - Can Woods ever get back on top? But it also altered the course of a season in which Woods already planned to step off the gas and play fewer events than he did in 2018.
The post-Augusta time off and the overall lack of reps resulted in the lackluster PGA Championship and U.S. Open showings, and he enters this week's British Open having not played a competitive round since Pebble Beach.
"It took a lot sharp as I'd like to have it to be," Woods said of his game. "My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it. I still need to get the ball, the shape of the golf ball, a little better than I am. Especially with the weather coming in and the winds will be changing. Today it was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow. And hopefully, that will be enough to be ready."
Woods has squeezed a lot of prep in a short time so far this week. He’s played an uncharacteristic number of practice holes in the days leading up to his 10:10 a.m. Thursday tee time with Matthew Wallace and Patrick Reed.
After 18-hole practice sessions on Sunday and Monday, Woods teed off shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday. He created his 7-hole loop. He played the first hole with Ryan Fox, Jake McLeod, and Dimitrios Papadatos in a foursome we're unlikely to see again for some time.
Woods then skipped from the first green the par-3 thirteenth hole. And played the gorgeous six-hole closing stretch as a single.
Joined by ever-present confidant Rob McNamara, part-time advisor Matt Killen caddie Joe, Woods played multiple tee shots. However, he often hit two approach shots from the fairways sprinkled with early rising fans on either side.
It was quite the low-key affair compared to Monday's practice round with Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, and it could be his last before the shots count come Thursday.
"I think I've seen enough of the golf course to understand that I will still have to do more homework in my yardage book of trying to figure out how I will play each hole with the different winds that blow."
Its clear Woods doesn't have his A-game. But he's been able to contend without his best stuff over the past two years. Doing so once more in Northern Ireland would make a nice bookend for a season defined by how it started rather than ended.
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