JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The most astonishing thing about the first round of FedEx I, Tiger-wise, was … his mood. As he made the long walk, from the 7th green to the 8th tee and under the hot late-morning sun, he was 3 over, his young playing partner, J.T. Poston, was 3 under, and Tiger Woods looked to be — what’s the right word here? — comfortable. Like he said after the Open Championship, he’s going to have good weeks and he’s going to have bad weeks and he seemed to understand that this was likely to be a bad week and that’s okay.
You remember what it was like, back in the day, don’t you? Woods could shoot a front-nine 38 on Thursday and be leading by Friday afternoon? Back in the day (1996-2000) has left the building. Tiger Woods shot a first-round 75 here on Thursday, driving the ball impressively but hitting some really mediocre iron shots and short putts. But he began the day by congratulating Poston on his win last week in Greensboro, recalling Liberty National’s course setup from the Presidents Cup two years ago, and reminding his other playing partner, Scott Piercy, on the new way to take a drop ball. (All together now: from the knee, not the shoulder.) This is the new Tiger Woods, ladies and gentlemen. He told the group how Charlie, his 10-year-old son, can get a little cheeky when he gets ahead of his father in a putting contest. Kids!
Would any of this be noteworthy if the golfer under discussion was not Tiger Woods? Of course not. But Tiger Woods has 15 majors and 81 Tour wins.
In April, at Augusta, on Sunday, one of his playing partners, Tony Finau, tried to start a conversation, and quickly figured out that that was not going to happen. But Sunday at Augusta in the day’s last group is not Liberty National in the first round of the new-and-faster FedEx Playoffs.
On the long early-morning van ride from Liberty National’s Meet-George-Jetson clubhouse to the 10th tee, where their round was to begin, Woods sat right next to Poston and congratulated the 26-year-old golfer not just on his first Tour win, but how he did it. Along with Jim “Bones” Mackay of NBC Sports and Doug Ferguson of the AP, there are few people who follow the daily and weekly events of professional golf more closely than Woods. Do you need to know how many senior majors Bernhard Langer has won? Ask Tiger. Poston went 72 holes without making a bogey in his win last week. Tiger knew all about it. Tiger hated making bogeys, back in the day.