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Tiger Woods at Quicken Loans National 2015: Thursday Leaderboard Score, Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 30, 2015

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 3rd tee during the first round of the Quicken Loans National Golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Making his first appearance in a PGA Tour event since missing the cut at the British Open two weeks ago, Tiger Woods put together one of his most encouraging rounds at the Quicken Loans National event. 

After a sluggish start that included three bogeys in the first four holes, Woods had six birdies in a nine-hole stretch that helped him finish at three under for the day and in a tie for 28th place. 

There have been glimmers of hope for Woods this season, but he's never been able to sustain any momentum. He played the Greenbrier Classic four weeks ago and posted three rounds under par, but that was followed by the disaster at St. Andrews.      

Through all of Woods' struggles, he's never lost confidence, at least publicly. He was confident about where his game is at coming into this event, telling reporters on Tuesday he's on the verge of doing good things, per Kyle Porter of CBS Sports:

That's the thing. As I said earlier, is it frustrating? Yeah, it's frustrating not to be able to win golf tournaments. I'm not really there in contention very often and so that part is frustrating. But I know how close it feels and I know that I just need a couple shots here and there and it turns the tide. Every time I've had those opportunities (recently) I haven't done it.

Thursday's opening round was another step in the right direction, especially the way he bounced back from a horrible start. In fact, per Golf Digest, Woods had a four-hole stretch from No. 10 through 13 that was his best run in two years:

Golf Digest @GolfDigest

Tiger just birdied 4 straight holes and is 3-under. He hasn't birdied 4 straight since 2013. Now 5 shots behind leaders Goosen & Ishikawa.

Being able to consistently put himself in a good position to make putts is what helped Woods, as evidenced by this shot on the 12th hole, per PGA Tour:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Tiger Woods has now birdied 4 of his last 5 holes. #QuickHits http://t.co/H38yOlvOlo

It sounds so simple to say that getting to the green in regulation is what a player must do to find success, but the numbers proved that for Woods on Thursday.

Justin Ray of the Golf Channel tweeted out the difference for Woods that started on the fifth hole:

Justin Ray @JustinRayGC

Let's try this again Tiger Woods' last 14 holes today: 6-under 7-for-11 fairways 12-for-14 GIR 8 1-putts NO bogeys

Being able to make in-round adjustments—or just not losing confidence after a bad start—is a huge step for Woods. So often things can snowball, especially in a sport like golf that can be a slog when things aren't going well. 

Finishing with a 31 on the back nine was another monumental achievement for Woods in 2015, per Ray:

Justin Ray @JustinRayGC

Tiger Woods shoots 68 in 1st round. 31 on back nine is his lowest 9-hole score this year.

Woods' first round at the British Open saw him hit four bogeys in the first seven holes and unable to stop the skid en route to a 76. 

Bringing things back to Woods' comments before the tournament, those numbers bear out his theory that he's just "a couple shots here and there" away from turning into a contender again. His slow start in Round 1 did leave him with a steep mountain to climb, with Retief Goosen and Ryo Ishikawa tied for the lead at eight under. 

Yet, this is only a micro-based argument for Woods. The macro depends on what he can do Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Struggling athletes need to take baby steps before things fall back into place, so this is his first stride on a long journey. 

It's good Woods can still do things he hasn't in two years on a golf course. He should be encouraged by this performance and take lessons learned from the good and bad moments to make sure his success sticks throughout the weekend.

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