Tiger Woods’ latest comeback appears to be the real deal this time.
The 14-time major champion is playing in his fourth PGA Tour event since returning from back fusion surgery this week, and this return seems to be different than the last three because Woods finally is healthy.
But that could have changed in a big way Thursday.
During the first round of the Valspar Championship, Woods sent his tee shot on the Par-4 16th hole left and into the trees. His ball nestled near a tree, giving Woods an almost impossible angle to get to the green in two.
After clearing spectators, Woods placed his body against the tree and gave a mighty lash at the ball. The club went flying out of his hand immediately after impact, leaving many holding their breath to see how his recently-repaired back held up.
While Woods was able to avoid serious injury, he admitted it was a little painful on his arm.
“It didn’t feel very good,” Woods said, via Golf Channel. “I moved all the people and even warned them in case the club breaks and gets over there.”
Woods somehow was able to hook the ball away from the water and chase it up near the green, giving himself an up-and-down opportunity for par that he converted.
He finished his first round a 1-under-par and tied for eighth place. Woods was able to play the vaunted “Snake Pit” (holes 16, 17 and 18) in 1-under-par thanks to his miraculous shot at 16.
“The hand is fine. I didn’t hit my hand. My forearm hit the tree a little bit,” Woods said. “Once (the fans) got cleared out I figured I could put some speed into this thing and I was going to feel it. But I pulled it off.”
Thursday was the first time since 2015 that Woods broke par in the opening round of a PGA Tour event. His club speed is besting long-hitters like Dustin Johnson and his short game has been unbelievably tidy after the long layoff.
Woods enters his second round three shots back of rookie Corey Conners, and he looks poised to make a run at his first win since 2013.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images