Tiger Woods withdrew from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain, but he has rested and received therapy. At his Tuesday news conference at THE PLAYERS, he insisted he is ready to go.
As the only golfer to have won the Ponte Vedra Beach tournament in both March and May, and as one of only 23 golfers in the field to have played in both weather conditions, he may have an advantage this week.
Concerning the differences between March and May, Woods said, in March, the ball doesn’t go as far, everybody playing hits more drivers and golfers use longer clubs going into the greens. Another significant aspect, he noted, is that the greens are more receptive this time of year. He also recalled the Island Green in March.
“I've been between 6-iron and 5-iron on 17 to hit the shot,” Woods said about the treacherous hole. “Not too many people can say that, unless they've played in March.”
The 18th hole, he mentioned, plays completely different this time of year compared to May. It was interesting that he mentioned 18 because so few people discuss it.
“There's nothing easy about that hole,” Woods said. “Anything starts left, it's not coming back and you're going to have to be dropping up on the next tee or playing from there again. The bail-out, that first tree, I think was 280 to that first tree, and that's dead. So, I've tried to play more in the conservative side to try and put it in play, even though I'm a little further back.”
On the 18th hole last year, in May, Woods hit 3-iron, 9-iron. Tuesday in his practice round, he used 3-wood, 3-iron.
After the tee shot, there’s the problem of landing on the green, he said.
“You can't bail right,” Woods said. “You can't bail short. You got to hit two really good golf shots to finish it off. And if you can play that hole in 16 for the week, you're going to be picking up a lot of shots on the field.”
When asked about the “better than most” putt that Woods hit in 2001, he said he actually got a read from Fred Funk’s putt. Funk was playing in the group ahead, and Woods was waiting on the 17th tee, watching.
“He hit it up on the top shelf, and he four-putted the hole,” Woods recalled. “I hit my spot, and I was just hoping that it would take the break because I saw Fred's, how much it went to the right at the end, and my putt was not going right. I'm like, would you start breaking. And as soon as it started to break, I'm like, stop breaking. And then it caught the low side of the hole and went in.”
In addition to the difficulty of executing the shots required at TPC Sawgrass, Woods noted that Pete Dye is also a master of creating intimidating visuals.
“You have to overcome that part of it,” Woods insisted.
If you’ve played the course, you know just what he means.
Woods tees off Thursday at 1:27 pm. He’s playing with Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson.