Tiger opens strong at Bay Hill in key Masters tuneup

Tiger Woods Taylor Made driver

Woods is seeking a record ninth victory at Bay Hill in just his fifth PGA Tour event since undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April 2017, his fourth back operation in the space of three years.

However, the 14-time major champion never gave up on his dream to return to professional golf, and it seems that the old Tiger, the one golf fans know and love, (whisper it) might just back in business.

Tiger will have one eye on the upcoming Masters championship at Augusta as he looks to truly cement his comeback by adding major number 15 to his trophy cabinet.

Woods played Thursday morning and overcame a tee shot that was out-of-bounds by inches.

Woods had an aggravating double bogey on the back nine and then settled down, dropping in a vintage 71-foot birdie putt that momentarily had him in sole possession of the lead.

"No one's going to unseat his ability to do what he did on the golf course, what he can do mentally and how he can grind through stuff".

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"The narrative has completely flipped and I just wanted to remind you guys that it wasn't that long ago that you were asking a different set of questions and that you need to enjoy it".

"From the time I first won there, to the other times I won the Green Jacket". He was the best at that. "I think if he can be healthy, I do think he's mentally strong enough to be competitive".

A four-under-par 68 left Woods a shot behind fellow American Jimmy Walker while England's Justin Rose is three under alongside Graeme McDowell.

At the par-3 second, Woods found a bunker but blasted out inches from the cup to save par but stumbled on his next swing, blasting his tee shot way right on the third hole on his way to a double bogey six.

"Just keep getting better", Woods said of his goals for the week.

Reed, a five-time tour victor, said he would love to be paired with Woods in a late group on Sunday. "I was just trying to lag it down there, just make my par and get outta here and it had a crash at the hole, which I'm not complaining about, and it went in". "Tiger was that intimidating".

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