PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- If you believed some of the reports about Tiger Woods heading into his first round at the Players, you would think he already parted ways not only with his swing coach, but more than a dozen Nike golf balls that found various watery graves around TPC Sawgrass.
Not so, Woods said Thursday. Or at least not all of it.
"I'm sure there are other players that have been in the water here," Woods said.
The point is that things might not have been nearly as dire as they were portrayed coming off Woods' missed cut at the Quail Hollow Championship. That was apparent in a one bogey, three birdie opening 70. Four shots off the lead, Woods was still nine shots better than the last time we saw him in Charlotte.
"This is a huge event," Woods said. "I've felt like I've done some good work this week even though reports are I was hitting all over the lot. But I was working on a few things. I was very comfortable with what I was working towards, and I was very excited about what was happening. It was just a matter of doing it in competition, and I did it today."
As for Woods' relationship with swing coach Hank Haney, the player dismissed various news reports that said Haney was already out the door, and said the two are still on solid footing.
"Hank and I talk every day, so nothing's changed," Woods said. "According to the press, I've fired him five times by now over the course of (my time with him).
Instead, Woods maintained he just need reps to shake off the cobwebs from an extend absence. You could tell as much on a few occasions Thursday -- never more so than a 3-wood tee shot on No. 7 that had the distance and trajectory of a typical Woods 7-iron. But if the balance of his round was any indication, he might not be as far off as many have suggested.
"I've played six competitive rounds in about seven months, so it's one of those things where it takes time to get into the rhythm of competing and it takes tournaments. Most guys have played close to double digits by now. This is my third."
*-- Sam Weinman