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“They are bigger changes, and it’s taken a little bit of time,” Woods said. “Then again, I’ve showed some good signs of late. The Sunday round at Doral was back to what I know I can do. And then I played well at Tavistock (a two-day TV exhibition), and I’ve had good practice sessions. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

He can look forward to hitting first from the fairway for most of the day.

As the tour and television continue to tweak the tee times to get feature groups, they came up with a dandy at Bay Hill. Woods will spend the first two days with Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland, both of whom are on the A-list of big hitters in golf.

Woods has never seen Woodland, who won last week at Innisbrook. He needs no introduction to Johnson, and not just because they played together at the Memorial last summer.

Last December, toward the end of the round at the Chevron World Challenge, Woods was waiting to tee off on the par-3 17th when he turned behind him to watch Johnson tee off on the par-5 11th.

Johnson pounded a drive right down the middle, and Woods looked down and shook his head with a smile. Someone in the group asked Woods, “Can you hit it out there with him?”

“Are you kidding? No,” Woods replied.

That led to a conversation about athleticism, and Johnson is a model of the pure athlete starting to be seen more on tour.

“The thing is,” Woods said that day, “there are plenty others just like him. They’re not coming. They’re here.”

Woods got on Twitter later Wednesday and said about the first round Thursday, “I’ll definitely be hitting first from the fairway all day tomorrow with Dustin and Woodland in the group.”

“I’ll be the Corey Pavin of my group,” Woods said at his press conference. “Seriously. I’ll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try and make putts. Those guys will be bombing it way out there past me. It’s a new game now. When I first came out on tour, I was second longest. There was only one guy at the time, John Daly, that was over 300 (yards).”

In a way, it’s only fitting.

When he was the reigning U.S. Amateur champion in 1996, Woods was paired with the defending champion in the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. That was Pavin, and a USGA official with a sick sense of humor filled out that group with none other than Daly.