Tiger Woods flashed the brilliance all fans were out to see from the former world No. 1 player in the first round of the 2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Unfortunately, Tiger was once again plagued by inconsistency, as he stumbled down the stretch to post an even-par round of 72.
There was no shortage of excitement or hype surrounding Tiger's season debut, as he was paired with new Nike teammate and current top-ranked player Rory McIlroy, who himself struggled to a round of 75.
Starting on the back side, it took a while for Tiger to shake off the presumed rust. But shades of his dominance surfaced when he birdied three of the last four holes on his front nine. From there, though, it got pretty ugly.
On the first tee—Tiger's 10th hole—he took a bold, trademark lash to power the ball down the fairway. Incredibly, it was the dreaded dropkick—something typically only weekend warriors are familiar with, not a 14-time major champion.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel reacted when he witnessed the shot that will likely end up on golf blooper reels for the foreseeable future:
Tiger Woods' drive on the first hole should be referred to as a Waffle House. Scattered, smothered, chopped and chunked.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) January 17, 2013
That led to a bogey, and another at No. 2. After getting one back at the sixth on a nice downhill putt, Tiger's approach to the final hole flailed to the right side of the green, and he took a dreaded three-jack.
Despite the failure with the flatstick at the end, ball-striking was definitely Tiger's weak point on Thursday. He hit just five out of 13 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation. With his driving accuracy seeing a drastic improvement recently, it was surprising to see Tiger misfire so frequently.
All is not lost, though. Sitting just five shots behind leader Jamie Donaldson and Justin Rose, there is time for Tiger to make a charge up the leaderboard as he's been known to do.
After the round, Tiger was optimistic, indicating that he would have stood in a much better spot had he not taken three putts on the last hole (h/t BBC Sport):
I'm right there. If I had two-putted the last I'd have been 12th or 13th, something like that...There are not a lot of guys going low out there. You seem like you're banking up against the wind pretty much all day.
Tiger also intimated how narrow the fairways are to begin with and that the crosswinds from the blustery conditions made it very difficult to keep the ball in an ideal position to attack.
With slightly lesser winds and a strong practice session, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Tiger bounce back. As noted by PGATour.com, he ranked second in scoring average before the cut last season, and if that trend continues, things could be looking up for Tiger despite another uneven day on the course.