Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee is not given to soft-pedaling an opinion, notably when the subject is Tiger Woods. Recall the ruckus he once caused by giving Woods an F.
So it was that with only marginally less interest than we summoned for Woods’ first competitive round in 301 days, we tuned it to see what Chamblee thought of Woods’ round of 69 in the Hero World Challenge on Thursday and how his swing looked.
“If you’ve been asleep for the last eight years and you woke up and the last time you saw Tiger Woods play was in 2009 you’d think, ‘what’s the big deal? That’s exactly the same guy,’" Chamblee said.
“This was far better than I expected. I gave him an A. Only reason I didn’t give him an A-plus, he didn’t chip the ball particularly well. But this is the best I’ve seen him swing since before all the injuries and before all that stuff that everybody would rather really not want to talk about.”
He has sparred with Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo on the subject of Woods in the past, but on this occasion they were in agreement.
“The talk was his back,” Nobilo said. “Well, he’s back. At least his back looks fine, which is the big thing. If you’re unhealthy, you cannot swing, you cannot play, you cannot compete. If he really is and looks like he did today on a more regular basis, well of a sudden, shooting 69, he can certainly compete.”
It’s only a single round, of course, but there were indications that Woods, himself, has not been withholding information on the state of his health, as he has in the past.
“His ball speed on one shot was 178 miles an hour, another shot was 180,” Chamblee said. “That’s about a 96 mile-an-hour fastball. That is big league stuff. The last time Tiger played, his clubhead speed was 114 miles an hour. That basically translates to a 10, 12 [mph] difference in ball speed.
“This is Tiger Woods feeling good, swinging good. It was visible. You didn’t have to wait very long. You saw the tee shot on number one.”
Woods blew his opening drive well past Justin Thomas' ball, setting the tone.
As for the chipping to which Chamblee alluded, Tiger chunked two chip shots, which brought to mind the chip yips that he seemed to have at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015?
“The jigsaw puzzle’s out there on the table, right?” Chamblee said. “Really, it’s put together. It’s just that one piece that is missing. It is the short game. That’s where he was dazzling. He was far from dazzling today. To be fair, yes, these are very grainy surrounds and they are wet. But I really only saw one other player chunk a chip today.”