Delay could help, and hurt, Tiger


DORAL, Fla. -- The weather didn't do Tiger Woods' back any favors Thursday during the opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Perhaps it will help his golf game.

Woods faces a long, 26-hole day of golf Friday, which isn't necessarily good for a previously aching back that caused him to withdraw Sunday from the Honda Classic.

But given that his game wasn't responding on the newly revamped Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral, maybe it was fortunate he managed to play just 10 holes.

Woods talked a good game afterward in brief comments, but he played like a guy who hadn't hit a full shot since Sunday and only got to look at -- not play -- what is essentially a new course during a practice round.

The No. 1-ranked player in the world has four victories in his career at Doral, but the course underwent significant changes since Woods won here a year ago, including all 18 greens being completely remade.

And it showed, as Woods three-putted twice, took 20 putts total, and failed to make a birdie as he fell 5 strokes behind five players who are 3 under par, including Harris English, one of just six in the 68-player field to complete the first round. A year ago, Woods had his best putting performance as a pro at Doral, taking just 100 for the entire tournament.

Nonetheless, Woods was relatively upbeat afterward, and cited no back issues.

"Felt a lot better today," he said. "Warm-up was good and I felt good all day even through the delay. I'm ready to go back out tomorrow and play well."

The start-stop-start nature of Thursday's play coupled with a long day Friday is what would understandably be a concern.

A weather delay of nearly 2½ hours came after Woods had completed six holes with five pars and a bogey. After returning, he had an excellent chance for a birdie at the par-5 eighth, but three-putted for par. He also three-putted the par-5 10th for a bogey before play was halted by darkness.

Woods managed to hit 7 of the 10 greens in regulation and gave himself several good birdie looks in his first five holes, his first bogey coming at the par-3 fourth, where he knocked his tee shot over the green and couldn't get up and down for par.

After spending the past three days getting treatment on his lower back, Woods hit full shots for the first time on Thursday morning on the driving range. His swing looked fine, and there appeared to be no issues when he swung, although he walked and picked his ball out of the cup carefully.

"Should be a long day for all of us," said Woods, who will resume the first round at 8:45 a.m. ET before starting second-round play later in the day. "Hopefully tomorrow I can get back out there in the morning, play well and work back to even par by the end of the first round. Then shoot a low one in the afternoon."

Woods was not sharp, which is understandable. But he's also not been in form for a majority of the rounds he has played in 2014. This is just his fourth tournament, and he's been outside the top 40 in two of them, with a withdrawal in the third. He shot a third-round 65 at PGA National last Saturday, but then started experiencing the back issues the next day while warming up.

"It was very frustrating, there's no doubt about that," Woods said Wednesday when asked about not being able to build on his best round of the year. "Not being able to compete and play, who knows, if I would have shot a good round on Sunday, could have stolen one [a victory] there. Not being able to finish it makes it even more frustrating."

And yet, not being able to finish Thursday may have been a blessing.

We'll see if that is still the case on Friday.