Back in the bag: Tiger Woods rides trusty Scotty Cameron putter up Northern Trust leaderboard
NORTON, Mass. — Like the PGA Tour events played in June, July and earlier in August, there are no fans at the Northern Trust. But unlike (...)
NORTON, Mass. — Like the PGA Tour events played in June, July and earlier in August, there are no fans at the Northern Trust. But unlike the previous courses that have hosted tournaments, TPC Boston does not have any houses on the property. No one is cheering from backyard barbecues, applauding great shots from behind hedgerows or clapping from their porch.
All you could hear Thursday during the first event in the FedEx Cup Playoffs was the leaves blowing in the late-summer breeze, the crunching of spikes when players walked on a cart path and the clanking of clubs in golfers’ bags.
Players have said that on Thursdays and Fridays, PGA Tour events now feel a little like a practice round before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the sports world to change. These days, you have to create your energy.
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Maybe it was a lack of energy that hurt Tiger Woods as he played his opening nine holes today. Perhaps it was being a little wayward off the tee and not sharp with his irons. Either way, the two-time FedEx Cup champion never got rolling until he reached the 18th tee. From there, he made five birdies and just one bogey over his last 10 holes to finish with a 3-under 68.
“It wasn’t the cleanest of rounds,” Woods said after signing his card. “I didn’t drive it as well as I’d like, and for the most part, I struggled getting the ball within range to make birdies. But when I did, I made them all. I just want to give myself a lot more looks.”
With Dylan Frittelli not doing much and Matthew Fitzpatrick on his way to a 77, Woods made a 16-footer for birdie on the par-3 third hole. Then he got up-and-down from a bunker in front of the drivable par-4 fourth hole for a birdie.
Woods’ round was perking up.
On the 582-yard seventh hole, Woods drove the ball in the rough, but his fairway wood approach stopped in the perfect spot, just short and left of the green. It gave him a great angle to the hole cut on the right side. A chip and a 6-foot putt later, he reached 3 under.
On his very next swing, Woods hit a laser from 225 yards out, and his ball came to rest 7 feet from the hole. His putt rolled smoothly into the center of the hole.
“I like the speed of the greens, and I’ve had success here in the past,” Woods said. “It’s always nice to come to a golf course where I have good memories, whether it’s ballstriking or wins or whatever it might be. Today I felt really comfortable with the putter. I had good flow and good speed. I felt like the greens were quick, even though they were soft.”
The longer, heavier Scotty Cameron putter that Woods used at the PGA Championship was nowhere to be seen, but his trusty old putter, the Scotty Cameron Newport that he has used to win 14 of his 15 majors, was back. Woods said he practiced at home with the new putter, and with a Wilson 8802 that he said he uses as a training aid, but after picking up his old Cameron, it felt great, and he decided to put it back into play.
A bogey on the ninth hole, his last of the day, was set up by a drive that went into the right rough. It dropped Tiger back to 3 under, four shots off the best score of the morning wave, Harris English’s 64.
Woods entered this week’s event ranked No. 49 on the FedEx Cup point list. Players ranked No. 70 or better at the Northern Trust’s conclusion will qualify to compete next week at the BMW Championships outside Chicago. Regardless of his finish here, Woods is safe. He announced on Thursday that he plans to compete at the BMW Championship.
Things get interesting after that. To qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where Tiger famously walked down the final fairway in 2018 with an army of fans behind him, he will need to be ranked No. 30 or better on the list after the BMW Championship.
Making the cut here, but finishing back in the pack, will put more pressure on Tiger in Chicago. He needs to hit more fairways (he was six for 14 on Thursday) and hit more approach shots close to the hole to set up birdie chances. He also has to get used to the different feel around TPC Boston.
“Our walks are very different. Coming off the greens, just — there’s no grandstands. The buildout is nowhere near what we had it, and it is very different, and it’s very foreign,” Tiger said. “Some of the greens complexes look — how can I put it — a lot bigger because they don’t have the structure around the greens. We don’t have thousands upon thousands of people walking around this golf course. It’s a very different atmosphere.”
If Woods is going to win a third FedEx Cup, it’s time to adapt.