Tiger Woods Barclays: First Round Shows Golf Icon Is Still Making Major Strides

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2012

FARMINGDALE, NY - AUGUST 23:  Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the First Round of The Barclays on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park August 23, 2012 in Farmingdale, New York.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The major strides Tiger Woods is making on the golf course go largely unnoticed because they've failed to result in a 15th career major win, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.

Woods solidified his new-found consistency with a three-under par performance in the first round of the Barclays tournament. He birdied four holes, bogeyed once and had 64-percent driving accuracy.

It's only the first round, but it was encouraging.

Woods has played extremely well since his May 31 victory in the Memorial Tournament, with the missed cut at Greenbrier being the only real hiccup along the way.

He's finished in the top 15 in five of the last seven tournaments he has participated in. His new swing doesn't seem so new anymore, and he just seems more relaxed. He still hasn't found himself enough to bring home that coveted major, but the positives outnumber the negatives.

Woods still has things to work on. He's driving the ball 300-plus yards out of the box, but he's still struggling on the finer things. His putting numbers are too high, and he's lacked consistency on the green.

That could come from simple bad luck, but he seems to push the ball sometimes. Instead of relaxing, Woods has made a small habit out of chasing shots that he shouldn't.

But you have to admire the confidence. Woods knows he's playing better, and he has to know that he's not far from the breakthrough everyone has been waiting for.

That waiting also plays a part in it too. Woods will always face higher expectations than anyone else., it doesn't matter who they are. His consistent play has turned those nervous whispers into hopeful talk about his continued comeback.

Woods had a chance to win the PGA Championship, and he will have a chance at Barclays if he continues playing like this. By the time April rolls around, we could be talking about Woods being seriously ready to win his fifth green jacket.

At this rate nothing would surprise me. Thursday's round at the Bethpage Black Course certainly didn't hinder any optimism toward golf's biggest star.