Published 4:51 p.m. ET November 27, 2017
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) – All eyes are on Tiger Woods and his return to golf, even in the players he has to overcome.
Especially the players.
Woods was at the back of the driving range on Monday at Albany Golf Club, hitting the balls with Patrick Reed, when he looked up at a drone buzzing about 50 feet above him in the overcast sky. I had no idea that Daniel Berger was at the controls.
Berger was in the front of the mountain range, blocked by a row of bushes in the sand dunes. As the drone camera approached, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and their caddies crowded around Berger to watch.
They cared more about his reaction to the drone than his swing.
But they're curious about their game.
And those who have played with Woods in recent weeks believe that there is reason for exaggeration.
"People will be surprised at how good their game looks," said PGA champion Justin Thomas.
Thomas will have the best seat in the house on Thursday when Woods, who underwent fusion surgery in the lower back in April, plays for the first time in 10 months in the Hero World Challenge. Thomas, named PGA Tour player of the year after winning five times and the FedEx Cup, is paired with him in the first round.
Thomas spends a little time with Woods in his Florida homes, and played some weeks ago.
The attention in Woods has increased in recent days as more players joined him for casual rounds. Brad Faxon caused a stir when he played with Woods, Johnson and President Donald Trump on Friday.
"Tiger seemed great to me," Faxon wrote in a story for Golfweek. "I was impressed with how far he hit the ball, probably on the 10 holes where both of them collided with the driver, Tiger went over Dustin half the time and Dustin spent half the time with Tiger. more than anything, he looked relaxed, not worried about swinging with the driver, the flight of the ball, the sound of the club, everything was there.
Johnson is one of the elite players in the game. The true story?
"He hit him a couple of times," Johnson said. "I've bombed one and he's let me in. No. But he's got over it a couple of times, but I was moving him."
All this hype in the cold atmosphere of the Bahamas should sound familiar. It was only last year when Woods returned after 15 months of absence from the game. He had had three back surgeries at that time, the first just before the 2014 Masters, and Woods seemed relatively normal, with freedom in his swing. He made 24 birdies, along with enough errors to finish 14 shots off the end, in 15th place among an 18-man field.
Woods missed the cut in Torrey Pines two months later, flew to Dubai and managed a round – 77 in calm conditions – before retreating with spasms in his back.
What seems to be different this time, at least from those who have played with it, is the absence of pain.
Patrick Reed played nine practice holes with him on Monday morning. He saw Woods do what he wanted with his swing and saw a variety of shots: a sting on the tee, a low draw, a high cut.
"He seemed to have control not only of the golf club, but of his body," Reed said.
It was the first time Reed had played with Woods since the first round of the Hero World Challenge last year. The difference that Reed noticed was that Woods seemed more free and fluent in going after any shot.
"It seemed like there was a little hesitation the last time I played with him," Reed said. "This time, he was completely committed and fully trusted in his body, there was no pain, that's the most important thing for me, if he stays healthy, then he will play golf again, with luck as he used to. he ".
Johnson said Friday's round with Woods and the president was a big change since the two played the first two rounds at Torrey Pines together in January, when they both missed the cut.  "His speed was back, he played a lot better than in San Diego, for sure," Johnson said. "He's healthy, he looks strong, he moves with speed instead of San Diego, when he played with him there, he was not swinging, you could tell he was hurt"
The question is whether there is rust for having disappeared the competition for so long.
Woods has played only three tournaments since August 2015. Three of the four times he returned to the competition since the first back surgery before the 2014 Masters, lasted Woods. no more than three starts before taking more free time.
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