© Associated PressAssociated Press
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland - Under brilliant sunshine on ancient land that was foreign to him, Tiger Woods got back to work Sunday after a month-long break.
With trusted sidekick Joe LaCava by his side and playing alongside Patrick Reed, Woods took in all 18 holes at Royal Portrush for the first time, a rugged, raw course featuring massive sand dunes and elevation changes that will play host to the British Open for the first time since 1951.
It was no walk in the park on these links, as Woods and LaCava buried their faces into the yardage books trying to get a handle on the maze of uncertainty, especially the green complexes that resemble gigantic potato chips and perilous runoffs.
"A lot of movement," Woods said of his initial reaction of the course hard by the North Sea in the northern-most tip of the country. "A lot of decisions off the tees, with all the angles. Now, with the wind switching coming out of the south in the future, a lot of these shots we hit today are useless. So we're trying to figure out what lines to take on and what lines not to take on. And these green complexes are so complicated, you have to miss in the right spot."
Woods was a bit sluggish after he hopped off his overnight flight of just under eight hours and headed straight to the golf course. While his mind is deep into getting a hold of Royal Portrush, there is plenty of work to be done with his swing.
Woods didn't touch a golf club for 15 days after he finished in a tie for 21 st at the U.S. Open, then started building up his golf body, beginning with his putting. He hasn't played since the U.S. Open, a four-week break. Woods did likewise ahead of this year's PGA Championship, where after not playing for four weeks following his electrifying Masters victory he missed the cut.
But Woods, who has won the Claret Jug three times, didn't hesitate to take his latest break. He said it's his new normal. Rest and rehab have become more important than reps.
"The breaks are always great for my golf," Woods said. "I told you guys last year that I wasn't going to play as much this year, and it's going to turn out that way."
Woods said he doesn't fear doing too much too soon after not playing for more than a month. He continues to adjust with his advancing age - he's 43 - and how to care for his surgically repaired back.
"I do the same thing," he said. "I start from the green back. I putt, chip, pitch, short irons, mid-irons, long irons, woods. And then eventually play. Nothing has changed. The only difference is that there are certain days I can do a little more than others."
Woods lit up midway through his practice round when he recalled his family vacation in Thailand immediately after the U.S. Open. Accompanied by his mother, Tida, girlfriend Erica, daughter Sam and son Charlie, the Woods spent two weeks in Tida's homeland. The fivesome explored the country, embraced the culture, celebrated Sam's 12th birthday and even hung out with elephants. © File PhotoFile Photo
Tiger Woods putts at Royal Portush on July 14 ahead of the British Open. Steve DiMeglio, Golfweek
"We had the greatest time," Woods said. "It was an amazing experience. Especially since my Mom . her health has been diminishing (she's 75) and we didn't know if she could do this too many times in the future.
"It was pretty cool for (his children) to experience the culture, especially at such a young age. From being over there so many times, I knew the culture, I was raised in it. The only thing I didn't try was the spicy food, which is not happening again."
But he got his first taste of Royal Portrush. He said he'll get another serving on Monday, as well as Tuesday and Wednesday, weather permitting.
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