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Fans enthused by Tiger's success

March 15. 2018 11:14PM
Tiger Woods reacts to making a long putt on the seventh green during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club & Lodge on Thursday. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Tiger Woods is back and so are the galleries as he sent a jolt of excitement through the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Thursday, carding a 4-under 68 that had the crowd around Bay Hill Golf Club buzzing.

After a long absence from the game as he dealt with back issues, Woods’ comeback and return have energized golf in ways not seen since he dominated the sport.

Tigermania was back at Bay Hill as Woods climbed to the top of the early first-round leaderboard when he rolled in a monster 71-foot birdie putt on the seventh to spark a massive roar from the crowd.

He finished the round tied for seventh, four strokes off the pace set by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

“They (the fans) are into it, it’s been fun,” Woods told reporters. “The atmosphere we’ve been able to play in front of since I’ve come back has been absolutely incredible.

“It feels great the people are so supportive. It has been great atmosphere overall since I’ve come back and started playing again.”

Picking up where he left he left off on Sunday with a second-place finish at the Valspar Championship, Woods’ play on Thursday continued to indicate his comeback is trending upward. Las Vegas bookmakers have been so impressed that they have installed Woods as one of the favorites to win next month’s Masters.

After years of battling back problems, Woods, who underwent spinal fusion surgery last April, appears to be back close to the form that helped him to win 14 major titles. Woods, however, took a moment to temper the expectations, reminding the media that he is only two months into a comeback.

“You guys are asking different questions from when I first came back and it wasn’t that long ago, it was two months ago and the narrative has completely flipped,” Woods said.

“I enjoy just playing again, playing feels good. Just take a different perspective over it is all I’m asking.”

If Woods can produce some of his old magic, it is hardly surprising it comes at Bay Hill, where he has won eight times, tying a tour record.

The 42-year-old gave his play solid marks but there is still plenty of work to do.

“Everything can be shored up, everything can be a little bit tighter, a little bit better. But everyone says that, I’m not different,” he said.

“I’ve got three more days here and hopefully cap it off with a nice win.”


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