PARAMUS, N.J. -- Of course, this is a completely new life for Tiger Woods now that his divorce has been finalized, announced and commented-upon by his now former wife. So The Barclays is his first tournament in the new phase.
To hear him talk about it, though, it's all about his new swing. He has been working with instructor Sean Foley on a completely different approach. He has not formally announced that Foley is his new swing coach, replacing Hank Haney. But he did refer on Thursday to a fourth new swing. How different? When he was asked specifically what he changed, he said, "backswing, downswing, follow-through. Other than that, it was good."
In other words, he had to fix everything.
It sure worked, at least for one day. In his finest full 18 holes of the year, he quickly took the lead at The Barclays -- the first of four PGA Tour playoff events in the FedEx Cup -- by shooting a roaring 6-under par 65 on Thursday.
"It was important. I've got to play my way into next week," he said, referring to his rather low spot in the FedEx Cup standings, which is a real rarity for him. He is not guaranteed a spot in future events this time, unlike previous years. He was so low, in fact, that he had the first tee time today (they seed by standings with the higher places getting Woods' normal prime time slots). So he got up at 3:50 a.m. to get ready.
Ready he was. He was 5-under through seven holes and made only one bogey all day -- after he was distracted by noise from an adjacent whole while he played No. 12. He finished with a rousing birdie on No. 18 with a meticulously shaped drive (he rarely used his driver) and an approach that landed about a foot from the hole and settled seven feet away. He made the putt and gave a mini-fist pump.
That was the result of having hit "hundreds of balls" he said at home in Isleworth. He hit some shots in bare feet, so he could slow the swing down and get a feeling for balance.
"I've got to get my head wrapped around committing to it, or not," he said of the new swing.
"It's exciting to hit the ball flush like this again. It's something I've been missing all year. I mean I haven't hit it flush. And it felt good to hit the ball and shape it both ways and really hit it through the wind."
Of course, he also has to get his head wrapped around his new life, too. When he was asked if he had a weight lifted from his shoulders, an allusion to the divorce being finalized, he said, "I can't really say that's the case. As far as golf-wise, it was nice to put it together."
Much of his practice at home in recent months has been done alongside his Isleworth neighbor, Arjun Atwal, the Long Island product who attended Clarke High and Nassau Community College. Woods on Thursday spoke of Atwal's resolve in having been a Monday qualifier and winning in Greensboro last week (Atwal is not in The Barclays, despite the win, because he had lost his PGA Tour card and is not officially a tour member).
"Arjun's a great guy," Woods said. "I know how much effort he has put into it. I know the changes he has made in his swing and the physical ailments he's had. He's had a bad shoulder for a while, a bad knee. And to get through that ... and then have to go through Monday , it's the only way he could keep his card. He did it and won.
"That," Woods said, "is a great story."
That came from a golfer who is trying for his own story this week.