Is Tiger just teasing us, or is the 65 for real?

By: abadam


Itís only one round. And while itís a very nice round, a solid round, a round good enough to own a share of the lead after 18 holes of The Barclays, itís still just one round.

But when itís Tiger Woods ó the guy whoís ranked as the worldís top golfer but who certainly hasnít played like it this year ó then itís really more than just one round.

Is his 6-under 65 on Thursday a statement that Tigerís back for good? That the return to Tiger-like domination has officially started? That his ranking of 112th in FedExCup points will soon be replaced by a position in the single digits?

Or is it just a blip on the screen, like that third-round 66 was earlier this year at the U.S. Open?

We wonít know until later this week, of course, whether this was simply a flash of brilliance or a sign of things to come. But if youíre surprised that Tiger Woods shot 65 ó his lowest round of the year ó to open his FedExCup title defense, then you probably donít carry a PGA TOUR card in your wallet.

"Weíve been telling everybody itís only a matter of time," Brandt Snedeker said. "Nobodyís been listening to us. Everybodyís been trying to write him off.

"I think heís getting ready to prove all the guys on TOUR right ó that he is that good."

Vaughn Taylor, the author of the "other" 65 on Thursday, certainly wasnít scratching his head, trying to remember who that guy was next to his name on the leaderboard.

"I donít think anybody is surprised when he plays well," Taylor said. "Just looks like if he tweaked his swing and made a couple putts, heíd be right back in there."

Maybe the closure in his personal life has helped clear Tigerís mind. But perhaps the more important developoment, at least as it pertains to Woodsí golf game, is the work heís been doing with Sean Foley.

Although Foley hasnít officially been announced as Tigerís new swing coach, heís certainly looking better and better during the interview process. Woods sounded positively giddy to "hit the ball flush like this again."

Foley received an audition at the PGA Championship and even though Tiger didnít contend, he finished tied for 28th and had four rounds he could at least build on.

"Seemed like he had something going better at the PGA," Adam Scott said. "Ö If heís got a nice, good feeling, swing with something new and fresh ó we all feel good after that. For him to piece things together, I think, canít be too hard. Heís very good."

Other than Taylor, there was no one better on Thursday. Woods hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. If youíre into percentages, thatís 92 percent on fairways (tied for highest in the field) and 83 percent on greens.

Compare that to Tigerís averages coming in ó 55.3 percent on fairways (ranking him 180th on TOUR) and 62.6 percent on greens (ranking him 174th).

That would be what we in the media world like to call "noticeable differences."

"Obviously, heís better," Scott Verplank said. "This is not a golf course you can slap it around. You canít hit it all over the place and get away with it. I would assume that whoever heís working with is helping him."

TOUR pros, of course, have an easier time winning tournaments when Tigerís off his game. But you shouldnít assume that dread and dismay were their prevalent emotions upon seeing that 65 on Thursday.

Players are smart enough to know that Tiger at his best is good for the game.

"Unlike what most people think, we want him playing his best," Snedeker said. "Weíre fans, too. We like to see guys do stuff that we canít do.

"So we want him playing his best. It makes us better, pushes us to be better."

But it needs to be more than just one round, one 65. The next three days, weíll find out just how close Tiger is to playing at his best again, starting with Friday when he tees off at 12:10 p.m. ET. Thatís five hours later than his Thursday tee time when he was in the first group.

Unlike in the first round, Woods wonít have the benefit Friday of untrampled greens for nine holes, and the winds will likely be more of a factor.

"I donít know," Verplank said with complete deadpan humor. "That (65) might be a flash in the pan."

So far, itís just one 65. But a few more from Tiger this week will change the entire complexion of the Playoffs.

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