Tiger feels fit and fine for Bridgestone Invitational

Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods said he felt as physically fit as he has been in years and not rusty following a nine-hole practice round on Tuesday ahead of his first event after an 11-week injury layoff.

The 14-time Major champion — chasing the record 18 Major titles won by Jack Nicklaus — will return on Thursday in the first round of the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational paired alongside British Open champion Darren Clarke.

“I’m ready to go,” Woods said. “Doctors gave me the clearance to go, so here I am. Started back practicing a couple weeks ago, which was nice. I feel good now and here I am.”

Woods, who has not won a title in 22 months and slid to 28th in the world rankings, is a seven-time winner at Firestone Country Club, although he posted his worst 72-hole pro score the last time he played the course.

Woods has not played a competitive round since withdrawing after the first nine holes of the Players Championship last May, when Woods aggravated left knee and Achilles tendon injuries that he suffered last April at the Masters.

‘Very pleased’
With boyhood pal Bryon Bell serving as his caddie in the wake of his firing of long-time bagman Steve Williams, Woods toured the familiar course early in the morning and said he felt in solid form.

“The shots felt very crisp, very clean. I was very pleased,” Woods said. “My start lines were good. They were nice and tight, which was good. Everything we have been working on we’re very pleased with. Just got to keep working at it.”

Woods sent encouraging text messages to Clarke ahead of the Ulsterman’s final round at last month’s British Open, words of encouragement that remain between the two but ones Clarke cited as inspirational in his triumph.

“He has always been a great friend to me,” Woods said. “It was great to see Darren play well. He’s gone through a lot in his life and to see him win an Open Championship — the one that he covets the most — that’s very special.”

Woods said he has already had “a ton” of applicants for the caddie job that Bell takes over on a temporary basis this week and next week, when Woods bids for a 15th Major title at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

“I thought it was time for a change,” Woods said of firing Williams. “I felt that Stevie and I have had just an amazing run. Steve is a hell of a caddie, there’s no denying that. He’s helped my career, and I think I’ve helped his.

“We’ve had a great partnership for 12 years, won a bunch of tournaments, but I just felt it was time to change things up a little bit. I felt very comfortable with the move.”

Understanding pressure
Asked about Williams saying he felt like he had wasted the past two years of his life sticking with Woods in the wake of a 2009 sex scandal, Woods said, “Well, that’s what he says and what he feels.”

Woods said he has no timetable for naming a new caddie but wants someone with experience at dealing with pressure of top-level golf and noted that he hopes to qualify for the 125-man US PGA playoffs that start later in August.

“[I want] someone that obviously understands the pressure of the game coming down the back nine, someone who probably has been there before and who understands it and can deal with that,” Woods said. “That’s something that I will definitely be looking for.”

Woods said his expectations remain the same as ever — to win any event he enters.

England’s world No. 1 Luke Donald, who won the WGC Match-Play crown in February, will be paired with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa for the first two rounds.

World No. 2 Lee Westwood of England will play alongside 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland while defending champion Hunter Mahan of the United States is joined by McDowell’s countryman Rory McIlroy, the US Open champion. — AFP

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

South Africa has been junked

Treasury says the credit ratings downgrade “could not have come at a worse time”, as country enters a 21-day Covid-19 lockdown with little money saved up

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories