Woods, contesting just a fourth PGA Tour event and an 11th round on his return to full-time competition, found his ball up against a tree well left at the 16th hole and the opening hole of the three-hole closing ‘Snake Pit’ stretch on the Copperhead course.
Woods assessed his shot and clearly brushed the tree with his left forearm and then letting go of his 4-iron and with immediate fears the 14-time Major winner had injured himself.
But after signing for an impressive one-under par 70 in the cold and windy conditions, Woods brushed off any concern and expressing more interest in not hitting any spectator with the possible broken end of his club.
“No, the hand is fine and I didn’t hit my hand,” said Woods.
“My forearm hit the tree a little bit. I tried to warn all the people there, move them out of the way because I didn’t know if I was — if I pulled back on that at all and tried to really use my hands and flight that ball down and if that club catches and breaks, it’s going to be right over there.
“I was worried about that.
“Once they got cleared out I figured I could put some speed into this”.
Woods began his round in going close to holing an eagle chip shot at the first but had a huge crowd roaring with delight when he also went close to holing his tee shot at the uphill par-3 17th and with his 5-iron attempt stopping some 18 inches from the cup.
And while Woods shook off any injury worries on 16, he was clearly delighted to have toughed out what he called as ‘brutal’ conditions on day one of the $6.5m event.
“It was really brutal out there,” said Woods.
“We as a group got fooled a lot today. Into the wind it felt like you just hit walls and downwind it was you couldn’t pick an angle.
“But in saying that it feels great to shoot the score I shot. Today was tough, man. I don’t know if these people really understand how hard it was out there trying to pull a club, trying to figure out the wind direction, the gusts.
“The wind was up and down and into the wind and just hit walls up there. We hit some shots and the whole group, the whole group got fooled a lot today. That’s rare. But it happened today. It was just a tough day all around.”
And like he’s done since returning to full-time competition earlier this year at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods delighted the crowd waiting for him after his round by signing many autographs.
It is something that Woods has really not done in the past and it certainly is delighting a new ‘Tigermania’ teenager fan base.
Woods heads into day two sharing eighth place with the England duo of Justin Rose and former Valspar winner, Luke Donald.
The trio, and among 20 players at one-under par, are just three shots adrift of little-known Canadian Corey Conners (67) on four-under par and with Scot Russell Knox (69) just two shots back and sharing fifth place at two-under par.
Knox capped his round with three birdies in his opening seven holes and only the third occasion in 17 rounds he’s broken 70 on the Copperhead course.
“Any time you break 70 around here you have to be happy,” said Knox.
“It was windy, pretty cool during the day. Tough to pull clubs. Always is on this course. I mean the wind swirls throughout the trees and got it wrong a few times but, obviously, got it right a few times, too.
“The strength of my game today was I hit the ball well. Every part of my game was pretty good. Had a good time with Paul Casey and Nick Watney, had a good group, all under par.
“So, there won’t be too many of those groups today. Saw some good shots, which helped. Drove the ball nice, made some nice putts.”