Tiger Woods was far from perfect over his first 36 holes at the Masters. He hit some wayward drives, his approach shots were iffy on Thursday, and the unexpectedly slow greens gave him fits.
But his short game, one part of his game that everyone was concerned about — the part of his game that was so broken two months ago that he had to take a break from competitive golf — has been, somehow, perfectly fine. It has arguably the strongest part of his game at Augusta.
He made it up-and-down from around the greens in four out of six opportunities in Round Two. He hit a pitch shot over a bunker to two feet on No. 4. On No. 8, he did the same thing:
He’s 2-under going into the weekend, in 14th place, and 12 shots back of the leader Jordan Spieth. But after the round Tiger was positive. He said he was “proud” of how he has played.
When you consider where his game was two months ago, and the fact that he hasn’t played a single round of competitive golf since, he has every reason to be proud. Before the tournament, Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel called it “unimaginable” that he actually fixed his short game during his eight-week break.
When Tiger was shanking chips left and right in early February, it looked like a deadly serious issue. Many speculated that he had the yips. Players started publicly taking pity on him. And some in the golf world theorised that his problems were mental, and thus harder to cure than anything mechanical.
Tiger himself provided the clearest evidence that this was a big deal when he voluntarily stepped away from the sport. He could have said he was taking a break from golf to rest of his injured back. But that’s not the reason he gave. In a statement, he said “Right now, I need a lot of work on my game, and to still spend time with the people that are important to me. My play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf.
Here’s where his short game was in February:
Two weeks before the Masters analysts weren’t even sure if he was going to play. And then he showed up and started chipping like it was nothing. It’s incredible that his fixed such a glaring problem so quickly.
Before the tournament, he told reporters when asked what he was doing for eight weeks, “I worked my a** off. That’s the easiest way to kind of describe it. I worked hard. People would never understand how much work I put into it to come back and do this again. But it was sunup to sundown, and whenever I had free time; if the kids were asleep, I’d still be doing it, and then when they were in school, I’d still be doing it. So it was a lot of work.”
Tiger isn’t going to win the Masters. It took Jordan Spieth roughly 48 hours to take care of that. But his first two rounds at Augusta were as encouraging as he could have hoped.
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