Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge got through its first round today despite blustery winds strong enough to blow tumbleweeds across the fairways. It helped somewhat that Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, runs through coastal mountain canyons mitigating much worse winds in the rest of Southern California.
Some of the players got out before it got too bad. Take, for instance, the leader at the end of the day, K.J. Choi. After five holes, he might even have been thinking that it was his day to shoot 54, the Vision 54 gurus’ mythical low-score target where the goal is to birdie every hole. He birded all five of them. But then the golf course got even and he didn’t make his next birdie until the 13th. And that was the secret to his day. He finished at 6-under and with a 3-shot lead. But the secret to his secret? Well, here in his own words:
It was very windy today. You really had to think where to miss, which direction to hit, but I was used to playing in the windy conditions because not only playing at Melbourne, but also, you know, living in Dallas, you know, where there’s 20, 30‑mile winds every other day. I’m used to practicing in those conditions, and throughout the years and just playing in windy conditions in the tournaments, you know, I’ve become very comfortable with those windy conditions.
So the lesson for the rest of us is get out there and play on those really windy days. And like it, dammit!
Tiger, on the other hand, “only” birdied four of the first five; he skipped the 3rd. But the winds came up for him on the 6th hole and he was one over the rest of the way in to finish at 3-under and T2. Here’s why:
It was hard to tell anything out there, because it was just dancing all over the place. You know, we – let’s see. We played 6, our second shot – my second shot was downwind. Strick’s was into the wind, going the same direction. And then a couple times out there, you know, I hit my second shot on 16. It was supposed to be in, off the left and it went down, off the right.
So it’s tough out there. I mean you can look at the scores. No one’s really doing much. Once the wind started blowing, maybe 1 or 2‑under par is probably about it since it was howling out there.
“Stricks” is Steve Stricker and that’s who Tiger is tied with. He birdied the first two, went birdie, bogey when the winds came up at the 6th and then 1-under the rest of the way. He reiterated what the other two guys said about the conditions:
Yeah. It was tough. It was tough just to grab the right club and commit to the shot because the wind was all over the place, and you never knew where it was coming from for sure, and at what strength it was coming from. There would be times where it laid down and then it would pick up really gusty, and it made club selection very hard.
All you can do is try your hardest and try your best and commit to the shot I think is the biggest thing. Pick the club that you believe is the right one and commit to it.
So the lesson for the rest of us is that wind is part of the game and it’s not impossible to play in it. It takes practice, confidence in that practice and playing out of the possibility that things will go well, not badly.
And finally, as I wrote yesterday about my “call” after the Australian Open that Tiger was back, here’s what Stricker had to say about Tiger after playing together in the first round:
I think he’s playing great. He’s striking the ball so solidly. His trajectory on his shots is really good. You know, he got a little unlucky on a couple of irons that he hit. You know, he hit them right where he was looking and either a little short or a little long. It was just tough out there, but he’s putting better and hitting it better, driving it better. It looks like he’s getting a lot of confidence back again. It looks like the Tiger of old really, and it’s great to see. We need him out there playing and playing well.
Tiger will be paired with Choi in the last group Friday. Stricker gets Nick Watney who shot 1-under and finished two back along with Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.
Once again the broadcast is on the Golf Channel from 3:00 – 6:00 PM (ET).