THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The putter wasn’t working for Tiger Woods.
Everything else was.
Behind superb ball-striking — he hit 16 of 18 greens — Woods devoured the five par-5s at sun-drenched Sherwood Country Club on Thursday en route to a 7-under-par 65 and a one-shot lead on U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy after the first round of the Chevron World Challenge. Sitting atop the leaderboard for only the second time this season, Woods, facing a field that includes 12 of the top 21 players in the world, is in position to win for the first time this season.
2011 SCHEDULE: 45 events, money mostly unchangedTOUR RIVALRY: PGA, Euro tours compete, coexistSCORES: Chevron World Challenge
“I really striped it, hit a lot of good shots,” said the world’s No. 2, who made birdies on all five par-5s but needed 32 putts in his round. “It’s not too often you can say I shot 65 and only made one putt, but that’s kind of what I did.
“I only made one putt and it was on 9. The rest were either two-putts or kick-ins. It was a good ball-striking day.”
Woods attributed his play to steady progress in his new swing under the tutelage of coach Sean Foley. The two first started working together at the PGA Championship.
“I’m just getting more efficient at it,” said Woods, a four-time winner of this tournament. “I’m understanding, after I miss a shot, what my fixes have to be, and that’s huge. I didn’t understand it when I first started working with Sean. I’d hit these strange shots and then I didn’t know what to do about it, but now I know.
“There are so many different parts that I have to do right. It’s not totally natural yet. That’s one of the things I was proud of today. I hit a couple loose shots during the middle part of the round, hit a bad shot on 10, lost it a little bit there at 12, but I fixed it and I got it right back. So that’s something that earlier when I was first working with Sean I couldn’t do. But now I know what the fixes are.”
McDowell, who finished second in the tournament last year when he was a last-minute replacement for Woods, has traveled from Spain to Shanghai to Singapore to Hong Kong to Dubai to Los Angles in the last six weeks. He put himself in good position to land in a new destination — the winner’s circle — but he has to go through Woods.
“Obviously the host, he’s in good form,” McDowell said. “He’s been looking like he’s starting to play well the last couple months since the Ryder Cup, really, he looked ominously good, and it’s great to see him up there.
“He does great things for this tournament, and of course we’ll be trying to catch him this weekend.”
Its about time!