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01/29 16:29 CST Woods stumbles with chipping in return to golf
Woods stumbles with chipping in return to golf
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) --- The focus on Tiger Woods at the Phoenix open shifted
Thursday from a chipped tooth to his chipping.
Woods struggled mightily with his short game again, and it didn't help that he
only hit three greens in regulation on the front nine. He made three bogeys and
a double bogey and made the turn in 4-over 39.
In his 2015 debut, Woods already was 10 shots behind early leader Keegan
Bradley, who had a 6-under 65.
Woods is playing for only the second time since he missed the cut at the PGA
Championship last August. He brought in a new swing consultant during his time
off to heal from back injuries, and expectations were lower than usual for a
player who has won 79 times on the PGA Tour.
In his first trip to the Waste Management Phoenix Open since 2001, playing
before the most energetic crowd at an American golf tournament since the PGA
Championship, Woods created more groans than cheers --- particularly off the
Just over a week ago, Woods was photographed in Italy at a World Cup ski race
with a missing tooth from what he said was a camera inadvertently hitting him
in the mouth. The chipped and crack teeth were easy to replace. His chipping
might be a different story. Woods also duffed a number of chips at the Hero
World Challenge in December at Isleworth, the course he knows better than any
other in the world.
Not much changed two months later.
Woods didn't hit his chip with a mid-iron hard enough from short of the first
green and left it 10 feet short. He sent a routine chip on the second hole some
15 feet by the cup. And on the next hole, the par-5 third hole, Woods was
tentative with a flop shot out of the rough and didn't reach the green. Another
chip on the par-3 fourth didn't reach the green, and he three-putted from 20
feet on the fringe.
The worst of it was at No. 9. His ball was just outside a bunker, and Woods had
to play an exaggerated hook with his feet in the sand, and he lost his balance.
At least his back looked to be healthy. The ball came up short of the green,
and Woods bladed a chip that ran over the back of the green.
Instead of chipping to a close pin, he opted to putt up the slope. It was the
second time on the front nine that Woods used a putter instead of chipping. It
wasn't a bad option, but using a putter once was a rare option for Woods.
The crowd was enormous, as expected, with Woods playing the rowdiest event on
the PGA Tour for the first time in 14 years. Bradley didn't get much attention
as he motored around TPC Scottsdale with seven birdies for the lead among the
"I hit a shot in on my last hole to about 10 feet, and it was a pretty good
shot, and I didn't get many claps," Bradley said.
He turned to his caddie and asked if it was over the green, or well short. He
couldn't figure out why there was hardly any applause.
"We get up there --- perfect shot. And Tiger was on the second green. No one
was watching me," he said. "It's just amazing to see the draw that Tiger has."
Zach Johnson was among four players at 66, while Angel Cabrera and Justin
Leonard were in the group at 67.
Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner at the Phoenix Open, also got off to a bad
start. He put two balls in the water on the par-5 15th and made double bogey
and was 3 over through his opening seven holes. But he drove to the front of
the green on the short par-4 17th and converted that into a birdie, and he
picked up four more birdies to salvage a respectable 69.
"I felt like I was a little anxious starting the round, because I felt like my
game was really where I wanted it to be," Mickelson said. "I came out and I
just made a bunch of dumb mistakes. ... I ended up playing the front nine
really solid with 3 under and hit a lot of good shots on some holes I made
pars, as well, and feel much better."