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Here's what we learned from Tiger's first round back from injury

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Tiger Woods made his much-anticipated return to professional golf Thursday, and while it's tough to draw any broad conclusions about his game from a mere 18 holes, his stats do give us an indication about what he might need to focus on in the short term.

With that in mind, here are Tiger's four key stats from his first round at Congressional, compared to his stats on tour from all of 2013:

2013 Congressional
Driving distance  293.2 yds
299.5 yds
Driving accuracy 62.50% 64.29%
Greens in regulation 67.59% 55.56%
Stokes gained/putting 0.424 -1.95

You'll notice immediately that Tiger seems to be driving the ball a little more than six yards longer post-injury, but don't look too much into that. Because we're comparing one round to an entire season, that number could be distorted by something as simple as Tiger hitting a driver off one tee instead of a fairway wood. As long as there's no huge drop-off in distance (which there's not), then this isn't really important.

The two important stats worth looking at are the last two: greens in regulation and strokes gained/putting.

Tiger was one of the best iron players on tour last year, and the best long iron player of anyone, so that's a cornerstone of his game that he'll want back sooner rather than later.

As for putting, it's perhaps slightly surprising that Tiger's strokes gained/putting number is as bad as it is -- after all, he's been putting and chipping for longer than he's been doing anything else since back surgery -- but that speaks to his general rustiness. And that number is also one that will improve alongside his ball-striking, because the closer he hits the ball to the hole, the more likely he is to make putts.

tiger-stats-518.jpg
On Thursday, Tiger already started to experience the upsides of improving his ball-striking and, as a result, his putting. He hit only 44 percent of his greens on his first nine en route to a four-over 39, before recovering with a one-under 35 on closing nine (improving his GIR to 55 percent on the round). If he wants to get back to the same form that brought him five wins last year, he'll be watching those two numbers closely going forward.