CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tiger Woods hit several loose shots and struggled with the speed of Quail Hollow's greens, but appeared in high spirits in his first public round since a disappointing tie for 40th place at the Masters. Woods teed off at 7:30 a.m. in the first group of Wednesday's Wells Fargo Championship pro-am and was joined inside the ropes for his opening nine holes by coach Sean Foley, who watched as the former No. 1 mixed an array of flushed drives and precise approach shots with an occasional leftward hook.
Woods and Foley appeared to be working on Woods's transition from backswing to downswing, as well as his posture. His short irons and chipping were solid, but he didn't make a putt outside five feet in his opening nine holes and he left several putts short. Still, Quail Hollow is a track where Woods has won before (2007), and where he feels comfortable.
"He likes this course a lot," said Glenn Greenspan, Woods's spokesman, while walking along the second fairway. "Everything is just right in front of you."
Greenspan's remark was about all the press would get on Wednesday, as Woods did not take questions from the media after his round, leaving scribes to mine quotes from the 14-minute video chat with fans posted on Woods's website Monday afternoon.
Woods was openly frustrated by his erratic play at the Masters, his most recent event, which climaxed with a now-infamous drop-kicked club after a wayward tee shot on the par-3 16th hole. On Wednesday, though, he appeared in good spirits. On the driving range before his early tee time, Woods had a light-hearted chat with Jason Day, who teed off on No. 10 in the other 7:30 a.m. group.
While walking off the third green, Woods noticed that a longtime golf writer and TV reporter had briefly commandeered a television camera and pointed it at the golfer. He laughed and quipped, "That's priceless." Later, after Woods ripped a drive down the middle on the par-5 seventh, he turned to Foley and said cheerfully, "I hit the s--- out of that."
By the back nine, Woods's game had warmed up along with the temperature, which cracked 90 degrees. When Foley left the group after the ninth hole, Woods's agent, Mark Steinberg, stepped in for the remaining holes. Woods broke out his sunglasses while making a nice up-and-down at 16. On 18, his approach from a fairway bunker caromed off a rock along a creek and onto the fringe, which brought a roar from the crowd and a quick grin from Woods, who got that one up and in for par.
After putting out, Woods shook hands with his playing partners and for about five minutes worked through a line of autograph-seekers that led to the clubhouse, where he ducked inside for lunch.
One of Woods's pro-am partners enjoyed the unique experience of playing with the world's most famous golfer.
"It's almost indescribable," said Troy Murray, a 43-year-old accounts director and 4-handicap who won the chance to play with Woods in a company lottery. "Walking down the 16th fairway, with people ringing the entire thing, I'll never forget that."
Woods missed the Wells Fargo Championship last year while recovering from an Achilles injury, and missed the cut in his last appearance here in 2010. He tees off Thursday at 1:25 p.m. Eastern with Webb Simpson and Geoff Ogilvy.
(Photos: Chuck Burton/AP)