One of the fans who followed Woods for each of his first three rounds was Sebastian Mondragon, 13, who said he started playing golf when he was 9. He ran from spot to spot, positioning himself so he could try to draw Woods’s attention to a handmade sign that featured the face of a tiger and the exhortation, “Let’s Go, Tiger.”
As Woods walked from the eighth green to the ninth tee, Mondragon stood at the front of the rope line. He waved the sign and shouted Woods’s name, but the 14-time major champion walked past, staring straight ahead.
Mondragon said he hoped that watching Woods would offer some pointers. “What I’ve learned,” Mondragon said, “is he has a very good focus.”
Woods had a lot to process as he headed to the ninth tee. He bent his 9-iron on the eighth hole when he hit a tree during his swing, so the club was out of commission for the rest of the round. He sorely missed it on the 14th hole, when he had the perfect distance for a 9-iron approach.
Using his pitching wedge instead, Woods came up short but still managed par. On the 16th hole, LaCava said, Woods had to lay back off the tee to set up an 8-iron approach.
After the round, Woods, 43, received therapy on his surgically repaired back, LaCava said that after that, his boss intended to meet with a club repairer in hopes of fixing his 9-iron in time for Sunday’s round.
Whatever happens in the final 18 holes, Woods’s debut here will go down as an unqualified hit. In his gallery Saturday was a couple, originally from Portugal, who are living in Mexico City. This was their first time at a golf tournament, they said, and they stopped along the ninth fairway so the husband, Pedro Caixinha, could take a photograph of his wife, Anabela David, with Woods walking in the background.
Caixinha described the photograph as “a souvenir.”
Before the tournament, Sutcliffe told Woods that his presence would make this the most important week in the golf course’s nearly 100-year history. Then he presented Woods with his own souvenir: a bottle of tequila.