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Opposite the intended effect

This was definitely not how it was supposed to go.

When Tiger Woods returned to the PGA Tour for the first time since the epic missed cut at the PGA Championship, the expectations were for something a little more impressive than his two-over 73.

Fred Couples must have loved seeing that less than mediocre showing. After all, it was Couples that requested Woods play in an event before teeing it up at The Presidents Cup. That's what you do when you're a captain and the guy you're hell bent on choosing two months before the required time period is struggling.

Woods' 2011 campaign has been marred by borderline horrendous play and a leg injury suffered at The Masters, the only tournament he contended at all year. He didn't even qualify for the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup. It was one of those years.

Couples' idea wasn't bad if you discount the big-picture hideous idea in the first place. Couples just wanted Woods to get some competitive play in before Australia, but at the rate Woods is going, that competitive play will be cut in half.

This week started with such promise.

He's got Joe La Cava on his bag, a good professional caddie who dropped the loop of the No. 5 player in the world to come work for Tiger.

He announced a new endorsement deal with Rolex and while these eyes have never seen one in person, they sound like fine timepieces.

Woods shot a course-record 62 at the Medalist Golf Club last week.

Woods' decision to play this week at all showed a level of commitment, not just to the American Presidents Cup team, but also to the PGA Tour, that was absent in the past.

He never bothered with the Fall Series in the past, and truthfully, no big- name player ever did. Granted, Woods' reasons weren't wholly altruistic. He wasn't doing this as a boost for the tour or an event near his hometown. He's here to help a friend, who's helping him.

But Woods could've easily told Couples, "yeah, I'm still Tiger. I don't take orders from you, go fill out your team with some guy named Keegan." Woods didn't do that because he desperately wants to play on those international teams.

Was Woods feeling some pressure on Thursday to justify Couples' blind and misguided faith in him? Woods said no.

"I'm just playing to get competitive and win a golf tournament," Woods said of his first-round woes. "It's not about validation. It's about going out there and playing, and right now I'm six back. I need to put together a good round tomorrow and gradually piece my way back into the tournament."

Woods also did a fairly in-depth interview with Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel before the tournament began. Nothing to make Barbara Walters blush, but it was something.

(Free piece of advice, Tiger, to show more humanity and relatability, tweet more. Not robotic slop like you normally do, but funnier stuff like: "Last time I missed a USGA event Salt-N-Pepa was still cool and Whitehead was a toddler." Or your follow-up on that June day: "Wait, Salt-N-Pepa is still cool!!")

Woods slipped out of the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time since he was almost 20. That's got to be a tad embarrassing, that's why playing in the Fall Series was a step toward contrition.

Attendance is up according to the Frys.com Open people. Woods did the interview and hasn't had a problem being the face of this tournament, one he wouldn't have sent his mechanic to in years past.

That's why this Woods is a fascinating one. He's doing whatever it takes now to try and get back to the level atop the perch he once occupied with a vice grip.

That was supposed to start this week.

A first-round 73 wasn't the correct first step. He took 27 putts on Thursday and is now in danger of missing back-to-back cuts for the first time in his career.

Woods focused almost entirely on his putting woes after the round.

"I just had a hard time hitting my stroke, and then I started altering it. And it was all over the place," Woods said of his flat stick. "I started losing confidence in it because I wasn't hitting my line. So it was just a downward spiral."

Downward spiral? Sounds familiar. Car accident anyone?

He spent his time in the media center Thursday going on about his putting, but it wasn't like the rest of his game reminded anyone of the man with 14 majors. Woods hit seven fairways in round one and nine greens in regulation.

Woods is clearly a work in progress after taking the greatest swing in the history of golf 11 years ago and worsening it and worsening it.

Woods needs to make this cut on Friday. He got outplayed by his amateur playing partner Patrick Cantlay, who'd absolutely make a better Presidents Cupper than Woods right now.

This was supposed to be a confidence builder. Couples never could've imagined Woods would miss the cut in a Fall Series event when guys like Matt Bettencourt and Garrett Willis share the lead.

If Woods can't make the weekend, let alone not contend at a lesser PGA Tour event, where's that leave him? Is he David Duval suddenly?

Woods has a round to figure it out.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Elliot Saltman aced the third hole Friday at the Madrid Masters and the prize - his body weight in ham. Yes, that is correct, he won 240 pounds of ham. Where do you keep 240 pounds of ham? Are you angry you didn't win a car instead or do you appreciate the amazing accomplishment of winning an adult's worth of pig? Easter dinner is at the Saltman house.

- Lexi Thompson getting membership was the correct call by LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. The purpose of the age restriction is to protect kids from potential trouble and for them to prove they can handle all of the pressure. Winning comfortably after contending several times is a good way to show that.

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