Tiger Woods drives putter exchange, Birdie runs to shoot first round 68

NORTON, Mass. Tiger Woods had no scientific reason to return to the shorter Scotty Cameron putter, on whom he has relied for more than two decades, after a brief interruption during the PGA Championship earlier this month.

“Just stubbornness,” Woods said Thursday after his opening time 3-under 68 at the Northern Trust, the first event in the playoffs of three weeks of the FedEx Cup. “I practiced with the other to make sure I could get some reps and get some feeling, and all of a sudden – heck with it, I’ll just put it on [this one] in play and see how it goes. It worked. “

Woods went for the other version of the Scotty Cameron putter, he said, because the longer length put less strain on his back and allowed him to exercise a little more.

The late decision to return to the shorter version paid off in the first round on Thursday.

Starting from the 10th tee at TPC Boston, Woods played the trickier back nine in even par before hitting the front. He cleared four of the first eight holes before a road to tee shot led to a bogey at the ninth, his last hole of the day.

“When I gave myself some opportunities [on the front nine]”I made them,” said Woods, who is a four-pointer behind early leader Harris English.

Woods rolled in a 16-foot on the long par-3 third to come in red figures. He followed that up with another bird after coming up and down from the greenside bunker at the short par-4 fourth hole. After parsing on the fifth and sixth, he converted a pair of 7-footers for birds at no. 7 and 8 for the last.

“I love the speed of these greens,” he said.

His first playoff event did not come without some drama. Woods was seen putting ice-cold water bottles on his neck for his round. He said it was nothing more than cooling some hot oils he had used to dissolve things.

“My lower back is used to it. It’s used to it. We just do it all the time so I can loosen up,” Woods said. “I decided to put something on my neck, and it’s not as tolerant as my lower back, so it’s getting terribly hot. It’s just like in almost every other sport and especially hockey, those guys put some pretty hot stuff on their legs. “but you get used to it. My lower back is pretty immune to it, but my neck is not.”

Woods enters a potentially hectic stretch that could see him play four of the next five weeks. Following the Northern Trust, he is committed to playing the BMW Championship next week at Olympia Fields just outside Chicago. Next week is the Tour Championship, which he won two years ago.

For one, though, “I have to get to Atlanta first; I’m not in,” Woods said.

The top 30 players on the FedEx Cup points list advance to the East Lake Tour Championship; Woods finished in 49th place this week. After that event, there will be a week away for the US Open at Winged Foot, which starts September 17th. The major was originally scheduled for June, but was repulsed due to the three-month closure forced by the coronavirus.

“The top 30 guys who are eligible for East Lake, they’re going to play a huge charge here, who are those 30 guys,” Woods said.

Thursday’s round was a strong first step in the hunt for one of those 30 spots. The 68 matched how he started two weeks ago at the PGA Championship. At TPC Harding Park, however, Woods struggled with the longer putter the rest of the week, never getting very adjusted to the speed of the greens.

“Had a good day [at the PGA Championship], the first day, and then after that I didn’t putt really well, ”said Woods, who opened with a round of 3-under or better for just the third time since the start of 2019.