Woods Arrives at the Wells Fargo Championship With A New Set of Irons
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Armed with a new set of TaylorMade muscleback blade irons, Tiger Woods returns to competition this week in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
A winner at the Charlotte, NC, club in 2007, Woods last played there in 2012.
It marks the seventh start of the year for the 42-year-old Woods, teeing it up for the first time since tying for 32nd last month at the Masters. He has two top 5 finishes in his last three outings, including a tie for second at the Valspar Championship and a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I threw my clubs in the closet for about 10 days and got away from game,” Woods said Wednesday. “I didn’t touch a club. I played a little more golf than I expected to play and it felt good to shut it down, reflect and analyze.”
Woods’ iron play wasn’t as sharp as he wanted at Augusta National, consequently, many approach shots wound up above the pins.
“I had defensive putts most of the days,” he said. “I need to be more precise. I hit my irons pretty good during the Florida swing. Hopefully, this will be a good week.”
Woods signed with TaylorMade last year and began testing irons since December. He almost used a new set at Augusta National.
“It’s not a big deal because I have been working on this for months,” said Woods. “Now I can hit the ball with the correct numbers and shape.”
He praised the TaylorMade staff for helping him with the process, and said the new blades allow him to hit higher, softer shots with more spin without sacrificing yardage. The biggest challenge was finding the right metal and groove configurations.
“I really didn’t hit that many balls,” Woods said. “I had to be cautious with my back.”
Woods played nine holes on Tuesday with Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Dru Love, the latter the son of Davis Love III. The elder Love is nursing a sore back and walked with the group.
On Wednesday, Woods was first off in the pro-am. One of his playing partners was 17-year-old Shabaz Hashmi, who earned the spot by winning an essay contest conducted by the First Tee. He is a participant in the Greater San Antonio First Tee program.
“He did fantastic today,” Woods said. “He hit it well and putted well. This is not an easy golf course. It was exciting to see him out there.”
Woods and Shabaz chatted throughout the round.
“One thing that impressed me about Mr. Woods that you don’t see on TV is his tempo,” said Shabaz. “He let me hit his putter, which was surreal.”
Woods and his TGR Foundation have been a long-time supporter of the First Tee Program.
“So many of these kids have come from the program and it has turned their lives around,” he said. “Shabaz is a shining example.”
Many changes have been made to the course since Woods’ last visit. He spent extra time chipping and putting, and also picked the brain of Thomas on Tuesday, who won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow last year.
“The golf course is much harder,” Woods said. “Some of these holes have become a lot more stout and the bunkers are more in play. The new greens are pretty springy and tough to hit. It’s imperative to get the ball in play.”
Coming into the week, Woods ranks 10th on the PGA Tour in scoring at 69.88 and third in total putting. He’s currently 50th in the FedExCup standings and 91st in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Woods begins the first round on Thursday at 12:50 p.m. ET with newly-crowned Masters champ Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka. They start on the 10th tee Friday at 7:40 a.m. ET.
Woods has gotten to know Reed through team competitions and has become a fan
and a friend.
“He’s fiery,” Woods said. “He’s very committed to being the best golfer he can be. It’s refreshing and fun to watch.”