Tigers' bogey-free round shows progress

Tiger Woods shows progress at the Australian Open on Thursday, opening with his first bogey-free round in nine months and shooting a 4-under-par 68.

Jason Day is here because of Tiger Woods.

The young Australian was once a troubled youth, spiraling out of control after his father’s sudden death.

He tells the story of the sun waking him after a night of binge drinking.

He had passed out on a curb.

He was only 12.

But two years later, Day read a book on Woods and it changed his life.

He dedicated himself to golf and, at age 23, here he is, world No. 7.

Day never had played golf with his boyhood hero before Thursday’s opening round of the Australian Open.

And he was relieved afterward, and not just because he’d shot a 3-under-par 69.

“I’m glad he’s playing good,” he said of Woods.

He and, it seemed, the 20,000-strong galleries, many of whom lined the fairways, straining to catch a glimpse of Woods, who hasn’t played in Sydney for 15 years.

Two years removed from his last win — in Melbourne — Woods at the very least put himself in position to end the longest slump of his career at The Lakes with an impressive 4-under-par 68.

He was three back of first-round leader Jarrod Lyle, but of those in the top 10, only Woods and compatriot Nick Watney teed off in the afternoon, when swirling winds made low scores elusive.

Significantly, it was the first time Woods had gone bogey-free in nine months.

“It’s been a while,” he acknowledged.

Woods has torpedoed so many rounds the past two years by not being able to recover from his mistakes.

So the importance of Thursday’s clean card wasn’t lost on him.

“With these conditions, it’s very easy to make a couple of bogeys in a row and get it going the wrong way,” he said.

“I was as patient as I possibly could be. I knew there were not going to be a lot of guys in the afternoon shooting in the 60s.”

His round could’ve been much better. He lipped out on four birdie putts and failed to birdie either of the final two gettable par-5s on the back nine.

“I hit it really good today,” he said. “That was exactly how I’ve been hitting it at home; that’s good.”

Good because it represents a breakthrough. Woods has been playing well at home for some time. But he’s been unable to answer the bell at tournaments.

“I just had to take it to the golf course,” he said. “And here it is.”

Well, at least for one day.

Now he’s got to show that he’s able to do it again.

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