Seven birdies, one bogey, and the name Tiger Woods atop the Barclay's leaderboard, and the critics have become silenced, stunned, and are suddenly supporters.
Woods dazzled the New Jersey crowds at Ridgewood Golf Club for the first tournament of the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs, the Barclay's, displaying by far his best performance of this season, a six-under par 65.
But Tiger has put his fan base, or what's left of it, in a pretty uncomfortable position, like a ball below your feet buried in deep rough. After a slew of scores ranging across the spectrum, from two fourth place finishes in major championships, to a missed cut and withdrawal, golf fans couldn't help but feel uncertain about the likelihood of witnessing the old Tiger overpower and rout fields.
But is he really back?
He may have resembled the World's No.1 Ranked golfer, but it's a long way to Sunday.
Woods clearly made a crucial adjustment off the tee, refraining from pulling the driver but two times Thursday. He constantly put himself in position to attack pins after splitting the fairway 93 percent of the time. Woods also hit 15 of 18 greens and needed just 27 putts in his opening round.
But the last few months have taught the public that Tiger is not as reliable as he once was. That lack of dependability refers not just to a mechanical sense of controlling his golf shots, but especially in the case of controlling his mental game.
Since his divorce was officially made public just recently, he has been dealing with the repercussions, in addition to finding his name in a somewhat unfamiliar place, leading the field. Tiger Woods is now a total question mark instead of a sure thing.
The 2010 PGA Tour season has not just been representative of Tiger Woods' downfall, but simultaneously the elevation of a group of incredibly talented golfers who are holding their own among the best in the world. From veterans and major champions like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, to the developing stars of the Tour like Hunter Mahan and Jeff Overton, Woods will have to play his best and most consistent golf to compete with his peers, who no longer fear him.
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