GREENSBORO, N.C. — As Tiger Woods strode down the fairway in a teal shirt and gray pants, the shouts and cheers started up again.

The young boy who stood alongside the rope line, however, didn’t speak much louder than a whisper.

That’s him, the boy said. That’s Tiger Woods.

And on Thursday, in his first round at the Wyndham Championship, Tiger was the Tiger of old. For fans, who showed up in droves, the performance was a treat. Woods poured in four birdies through his first nine holes and finished at 6-under-par 64, tied for seventh and two shots off the lead held by Erik Compton, William McGirt and Tom Hoge.

Also leading Woods at 7-under are Jim Herman, Morgan Hoffman and Derek Ernst.

Though trailing, it was Woods’ best round since 2013.

“It was nice,” Woods said. “I was making birdies, Brooks (Koepka) made some birdies, Hideki (Matsuyama) got off to a good start as well. All under par and all making birdies and putts, and I think it was fun, I guess, for everyone because all three of us played well.”

Not exactly.

Matsuyama and Koepka are in the top 20 of the FedEx Cup standings, but that didn’t stop fans from jogging to the next hole before they could putt. If Tiger played first, the crowd was gone and racing ahead to the next tee box or green. There was little doubt before Thursday and even less now: The stage in North Carolina belongs to Tiger.

And did he ever deliver. For every near miss, choice word and exasperated look to the sky, there was a shot that elicited a roar from the crowd.

There was the 40-foot eagle putt on the 15th green that he brought to within four feet and an approach shot on the sixth hole that he dropped within five feet. His birdie on the fourth left him laughing as he shrugged to the surging crowd, and a par save on his final hole ignited the thousands gathered around the ninth green.

This was the Tiger that people came to see.

This was seven-birdies-and-a-patented-fist-pump Tiger, not miss-the-cut Tiger.

He left shots out there, too. He missed the birdie attempt after the approach on No. 6, and while he avoided a three-putt, there were plenty of two-putt pars that might have been birdies.

This doesn’t erase a rocky season. This was one round on a Thursday against a watered-down field. But for many fans, including a man who wore shorts embroidered with little orange tigers, this was the show for which they’d hoped. Tiger’s recent struggles, though, mean they might not have expected it.

It’s been a while since Woods put together a round of that caliber. In front of a sea of supporters that blanketed pathways, bridges and observation platforms, Woods put on a show.

Everyone sure seemed ready for Act II on Friday.


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