July 17, 2020 / 1:32 AM / a month ago

Fans are gone but thrill remains for Woods on Tour return

FILE PHOTO: Golf - The 148th Open Championship - Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland - July 19, 2019 Tiger Woods of the U.S. on the 5th hole during the second round REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo

(Reuters) - The fans may be gone but the excitement is still there for Tiger Woods, who resumed his hunt for a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour win at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, on Thursday.

The 15-time major winner was happy making his first appearance on the tour since the coronavirus outbreak put much of the sports world on hold in March, finishing the day at one under par.

“I still felt the same eagerness, edginess, nerviness starting out, and it was good. It was a good feel. I haven’t felt this in a while,” said Woods, who mounted an astounding career comeback to win the Masters in 2019, his first major title in more than a decade.

With fans not permitted at the tournament to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, Woods acknowledged it was “new reality” for the players.

“There were still a lot of moving carts and a lot of media that were moving around, but the energy wasn’t the same without the fans,” he said.

Woods started the day strong at Muirfield Village with birdies on the first and third, but windy conditions proved a challenge as the 44-year-old knocked the rust off his game.

“I was very pleased the way I drove it, my feel for my irons. I just didn’t quite hit the putts hard enough,” said Woods. “Most of my putts were dying, didn’t quite have enough oomph to it.”

On Friday Woods will work to catch up on leader Tony Finau, who was six-under at the end of the day, in a tournament atmosphere that bears little resemblance to most he’s seen before.

“I don’t have the marshaling and the crowds and people moving,” said Woods. “Certainly it’s a different feel, one that’s a new reality.”

Reporting By Amy Tennery; editing by Richard Pullin

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