Tiger Woods Kicks Off Arnold Palmer Invitational With a 69

By Ryan Wooden

In his final week of preparations before the Masters, which sits just two weeks away from today, Tiger Woods was hoping to fine tune his game and test himself mentally, but most importantly the 14-time Major championship winner was hoping to test himself physically. Tiger played a practiced round on Sunday at Augusta, which he then followed with two days of play at the Tavistock Cup.

Wednesday, Woods teed it up in the Pro-Am event for this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, and on Thursday morning Tiger teed it up for his first PGA Tour round since withdrawing at Doral with a strained left Achilles. Tiger played solidly at a course that he knows all-to-well (Bay Hill), but more importantly, Tiger has continued to survive the physical strain of five straight days of golf.

Tiger carded a 69 on Thursday morning, which puts him three strokes back of leaders Charlie Wi and Jason Dufner. He’s well within striking distance, and that is despite another ho-hum round with the putter for Woods.

Tiger needed 32 putts to get through his day after using 34 putts at Lake Nona on Tuesday and posting a mediocre round during the singles play of the Tavistock Cup. However, on Thursday, Woods was able to overcome another rough day with the flat blade by dominating the Par 5’s. Three of Tiger’s four birdies on the day came on No. 6, No. 12, and No. 16, all of which being Par 5’s.

After the round, Tiger Woods told PGATour.com’s Helen Ross that his left Achilles injury wasn’t in his mind at all. But, the question will be whether or not Woods can hold up through the weekend.

If Tiger Woods is able to play through Sunday that would make eight consecutive days played for the recently injury-prone 36-year old. And those days haven’t been completely without scare.

On Wednesday at the Pro-Am, Tiger stopped his turn in the middle of his downswing because a photographer had snapped a picture. The abrupt halt to his swing left Woods grimacing and appeared to visibly affect Woods for several holes. However, Woods insisted that it was just a minor tweak of his back and that it had loosened up before the end of the round.

Certainly Woods would love to get a victory on the PGA Tour, specifically at Bay Hill, where Tiger has won Arnold Palmer’s tournament a total of six times through the years. However, the ultimate test will just be for Woods to stay healthy through this grueling portion of his schedule.

Clearly, Tiger Woods calculated his risks by electing to play a practice round at Augusta and by opting into the Tavistock Cup, but with Woods health fickle at best, you have to wonder if Tiger made the right decision with the Masters just two weeks away. Not that the Arnold Palmer Invitational has ever needed it, but the added drama of Tiger’s injury status should certainly make for an entertaining weekend at Bay Hill.

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