Marana, Ariz. Tiger Woods pulled into the parking lot as sunlight began to filter across the desert floor. He ducked into the clubhouse to change into golf shoes and headed out for a practice round, a routine he has followed for a dozen years.
For a moment, it didn’t seem as though he had been gone from golf for the last eight months recovering from knee surgery.
“It feels the same. Nothing feels any different,” Woods said, recalling a conversation with his wife Tuesday morning. “Just because it feels like I’m coming back to what I used to do.”
But there was one change that brought so much satisfaction.
Standing on the first tee at Dove Mountain, he drew back his 3-wood and sent the ball soaring against the Arizona sky, his swing looking just as good as it did that Monday in June at Torrey Pines when he won the U.S. Open in a playoff.
Only this time he didn’t wince. He didn’t stoop over and clutch his left leg. He didn’t have to use his club for a cane.
He was about an hour late for his news conference, but he had a good excuse.
It was his first time walking 18 holes since the U.S. Open, and “I forgot how long it takes,” said Woods, who has been riding a cart at home.
Woods’ first-round opponent is Brendan Jones, an Australian Woods never has met. Woods is the defending champion.
Tour loses another sponsor
The PGA Tour is losing another title sponsor, announcing Tuesday that FBR has decided not to renew its contract after 2010 for the popular tournament outside Phoenix. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says a search is under way to find a replacement sponsor for 2011.