CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There was little noticeable rust in Tiger Woods‘ game as he played a pro-am round Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he makes his first tournament start since the Masters on Thursday.
Woods took a three-day break following his 32nd-place finish at Augusta National and said he went 10 days without touching a club.
However, he did find time for a junior clinic in Missouri two weeks ago as well as one for his foundation last week.
And he feels comfortable enough with the testing work he has done with TaylorMade to put a new set of the company’s irons in his bag this week. He had been using his old Nike irons while working out the details of his switch going back more than a year.
“I got away from the game, didn’t touch a club, didn’t make a golf swing,” said the 42-year-old Woods, who begins the week ranked 93rd in the world.
But unlike years past, when he was dealing with the back pain that led to four surgeries, Woods has been able to put in the necessary time to prepare. Instead of spending his time rehabbing and recovering, there was clearly some work that was accomplished at home.
A pro-am round for Woods is typically quite casual, but he was solid off the tee and hit enough good shots to make several birdies. And he suggested where he still has the most work to do is in his iron game, which let him down at the Masters.
“I drove it great on the weekend, but I kept hitting the ball above the hole or in the wrong spot,” Woods said. “And I had defensive putts on most of the days. Even on Sunday when I shot 4-under par, I was in some tough spots. I needed to be more precise and I wasn’t. I need to continue working on it and get sharp.”
Woods said the iron problems were a one-tournament issue, that he felt good about that part of his game as he had consecutive top-12 finishes at the Honda Classic, Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It was at those events, he said, where his driving let him down.
“Now, of course, I’m driving it great and struggling a bit with my irons,” Woods said.
This is Woods’ first time at Quail Hollow since missing the cut in 2012. Since then, the course has undergone several changes that were made in advance of last summer’s PGA Championship won by Justin Thomas, who is also in the field this week.
Woods won here in 2007 and also has three other top-11 finishes, but Quail Hollow holds the distinction of being the only venue where he has missed the cut twice in his professional career. He also missed in 2010 when he shot a second-round 79.
“The golf course is much harder than it used to be,” Woods said. “It’s longer, more difficult. Some of these holes have become a lot more stout.”
Woods, who also played nine holes Tuesday, said his goal is to have a good week and ramp up for next week’s Players Championship — the PGA Tour’s signature event — before then “getting ready for Shinnecock,” which will host the U.S. Open in June.
Although Woods did not confirm it, he is also expected to play the Memorial Tournament two weeks prior to the U.S. Open.