During Wednesday's pro-am round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Tiger Woods skulled a bunker shot into the stands at the par-3 16th. Then he chunked a chip shot on the 18th at TPC Scottsdale. Perhaps that was an omen of what was going to happen in Round 1 on Thursday.
On the first hole, after hitting his drive so far right it nearly went out of bounds, Woods inexplicably used a mid-iron from off the green to perform a bump-and-run. It came up well short, leading to a bogey.
It was another missed green and a bogey at the second.
On the par-5 third, Woods' second shot had him greenside, albeit with a tight landing area to get up-and-down for birdie. He misjudged the distance and got caught up in the rough short of his target. He walked away with a par.
A hole later, Woods missed his fourth consecutive green with an 8-iron. After another flubbed chip, Woods missed a putt from the fringe for par. Then he missed the 6-footer coming back for bogey.
Woods mysteriously then decided to use a putter instead of chipping from off the green at the sixth. The problems had clearly gotten into his head, but he made par. He followed with two consecutive greens in regulation and an accompanying pair of pars.
Then Woods missed the fairway at the par-4 ninth and found himself with a very awkward stance. Woods did what he could with it, landing short of the green and with a bunker in his way. With putter not an option, Woods tried to bump and run his chip. He skulled it over the back of the green. Bogey. Out in 4-over 39.
The 14-time major winner said before the tournament he hit "thousands of chips" to work through the kinks of changing from the method he used with Sean Foley to one he wants to adopt with new consultant Chris Como. So far, it doesn't appear to have worked in competition. Many say Woods' philosophy is flawed, believing the swing he uses to chip should mirror his full swing. Woods has maintained that the path forward for him.
The empirical evidence to support Woods' theory isn't so good. The first four holes have been a continuation of Woods' struggles at the Hero World Challenge back in December, where he flubbed or skulled some 10 shots inside 50 yards.
This is a process, truly. However, it's hard not to expect Woods to have some semblance of a short game. Until it comes back, Woods is under pressure with every tee shot and approach. A missed green could well mean yet another bogey and another dig in the psyche.
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