Tiger Woods went home early last night from his first tournament back after eight months out through injury but he found plenty of positives to take with him.
South Africa’s Tim Clark ruined Woods’ comeback from reconstructive knee surgery by inflicting a 4&2 defeat on the world number one and defending champion at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Yet despite losing in the second round to a player ranked 32 places below him at the start of the week, Woods found lots to encourage him about his game as he continues to build up to the Masters in April.
“I’m very pleased actually with the way I hit the golf ball,” Woods said yesterday.
“I didn’t make enough birdies. I made some yesterday, just didn’t make enough today. But I hit the ball well the last two days and that’s encouraging.
“Also the way my leg feels, after walking, and especially on this golf course, going up and down the cart paths, especially down the cart paths, my leg feels pretty good.
“No pain at all. Zero.”
Wood insisted he had not even experienced any of the soreness he had expected after his first-round victory over Australia’s Brendan Jones.
“It felt good,” he added. “It felt really good.
“I just iced and elevated it and didn’t have any soreness, which was nice.”
The only thing Woods was left to rue was an errant drive off the 15th tee into the Sonoran desert that scuppered the chances of a fightback that had looked possible when he had holed in from a greenside bunker at the previous hole.
While the American star accepted he had made a mistake, he was annoyed at having had to go and look for it when it should have been called out of bounds.
“I hit a bad shot,” he added. “I hit two bad shots in two days and I hit a bad eight iron there on 13 today and I hit a bad tee shot there on 15, lost it to the right.
“Evidently it must have hit something down there. And we got down there and no-one told us it was out of bounds and so we got down there and I was informed it was out of bounds and I had to walk back.”
The next major decision for Woods will be where he plays his next tournament.
The second World Golf Championships event of the year, the WGC-CA Championship in March at Doral near Miami, Florida, is a regular port of call for the world number one, followed shortly after by the Bay Hill tournament in Orlando en route to the Masters at Augusta National.
Yet Woods preferred not to commit to anything last night.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I have to go home and assess things and see how I feel.”