Woods has changed his practice routine at this major. For years known as a dew sweeper for playing his practice rounds at the crack of dawn, Woods hasn’t shown up at the course until after lunch this week.
He played Monday afternoon with 14-year-old Guan Tianlang and Dustin Johnson. After his news conference, he headed to the practice range before going out for nine holes with Fred Couples.
Asked about the change, he was coy, telling a reporter with whom he’s familiar, “Just wanted to mess with you.” He smiled, never giving an explanation, so that much hasn’t changed about Woods.
The biggest difference is his health and his game, which are connected.
There has been so much activity off the golf course — the scandalous revelations of extramarital affairs that ended his marriage, changing swing coaches to rebuild his swing for the fourth time, a move to South Florida to a mansion so large he has his own practice range in the backyard — that it was easy to overlook the injuries.
It all started to turn the corner last year when Woods began winning again — three times on the PGA Tour — and getting back into contention at the majors.
It was early last summer when he could finish a round and spend an hour on the range, and when his fitness plan was more about building strength then rehabilitating his left leg.
“The No. 1 concern was first of all, get health, get strong enough where I can practice,” he said. “And once I started to be able to practice, things turned. And they turned quickly. I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game. I feel that I’ve improved, and I’ve gotten more consistent, and I think the wins show that. That’s something that I’m proud of so far this year. And hopefully, I can continue it this week and the rest of the year.”