Tiger Woods fired a five-under 66 in the first round of the 2013 BMW Championship Thursday, leaving him just three shots away from leader Brandt Snedeker and in great position for win No. 6 on the season.
The PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs were spelled at the halfway point with a week-long hiatus, which seems to have refreshed Woods. He suffered from back spasms at The Barclays and finished tied for 65th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he was seemingly afflicted with the same ailment.
It's a different story at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., however. The world No. 1 was truly playing like it in the first round of this event.
Well, he was at least striking it like the best golfer on the planet.
Woods hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation and 10 of 14 fairways. Although many of the fairways at this venue offer generous landing areas, shotmaking was still required on a day when conditions were blustery.
The biggest strength of Woods' game was his iron play, as he frequently had short-range conversions for birdie.
What plagued Woods most was a lack of par-five prowess, an area in which he usually dominates his fellow competitors. Three pars on those holes hurt his scorecard, as did two three-putts in a span of three holes on his back nine.
As Jason Sobel of Golf Channel points out, though, Woods is held to a much higher standard than anyone else in recent memory:
Tiger Woods is the only golfer in the world who can shoot 66 ... and still have people question why he missed three short putts.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) September 12, 2013
Those problems came to a head at the par-five eighth, where Woods missed a relatively easy birdie opportunity. However, he closed out his round by pounding home a 22-foot putt for birdie to end things right.
It seems like fans and analysts break down Woods and whether he's "back" on an almost shot-by-shot basis. The only reason it's a question is because he hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
But whenever doubts about Woods seem highest, he fights back and wins yet another tournament.
When Woods hasn't been in serious contention this season, he hasn't been close. He has five wins, and he finished no worse than sixth in his three other highest finishes. But he did not finish better than tied for 32nd in any of the others.
|Tournament||Venue Par||Tiger's Score||To Par||Result|
|Farmers Insurance Open||72||69||-3||Win (-14)|
|WGC-Cadillac Championship||72||66||-6||Win (-19)|
|Arnold Palmer Invitational||72||69||-3||Win (-13)|
|The Masters||72||70||-2||T-4 (-5)|
|The PLAYERS Championship||72||67||-5||Win (-13)|
|The Open Championship||71||69||-2||T-6 (+2)|
|WGC-Bridgestone Invitational||70||66||-4||Win (-15)|
|The Barclays||71||67||-4||T-2 (-10)|
|BMW Championship||71||66||-5||Currently T-3|
This year, the letdown for Woods has happened on the weekend, where he has either fallen short at majors or been too far out of the hunt to be a factor.
Woods is second in scoring average before the cut, and he finds himself in a tie for third at the moment at Conway Farms.
As long as he can minimize mistakes (highlighted by the two three-putts) and continue to stripe it as he has, there is no reason Woods can't walk away with the hardware.
Note: Statistics, video and information are courtesy of PGATour.com.