BOLTON, Mass. -- Tom Brady bent over, teed up his golf ball and smacked a line drive far down the sun-splashed fairway.
"That's OK," his impressed boss, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, said as Brady's first shot of Monday's round disappeared into the distance.
One day earlier, Brady marveled when another premier athlete who had serious knee surgery rose to the occasion. Tiger Woods birdied the last two holes to emerge from a four-way tie and win the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio.
"I watched it," Brady said of Woods' victory. "It's always the same with him. You love watching when he's at the top because he always comes up with spectacular shots, which he did yesterday."
The Patriots' quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP wore a dark blue shirt, beige pants and blue-and-white golf shoes at the team's annual charitable foundation tournament in which he played in a group with Kraft. On Wednesday, the Patriots will don pads for the start of their three-day mandatory minicamp.
Brady said late last month that he's not limited in what he can do on the field. But he's not sure how long it will take him to shake off the rust after more than half a year of not practicing or playing with his teammates.
"It remains to be seen," Brady said Monday. "I hope there's not a lot of rust at all, but the preseason games will be good for that. And we have a long time till we play our first regular-season game."
That's more than three months away -- valuable time for Brady to continue preparing after having surgery following his season-ending knee injury in last year's opener.
Kraft liked what he saw of Brady during recent voluntary organized team activities.
"In the end, we know it's not what happens now," Kraft said. "It's what happens the Monday night after Labor Day (in the season opener at home against the Buffalo Bills).
"I'm pretty excited about the team we have this upcoming year. But I've always learned to moderate my excitement because things happen in the NFL that none of us can plan on. So we try to put ourselves in the best position to do the best we can and hope that no force majeure or acts of God happen that impact us in a negative way."
The Patriots certainly didn't go into last season expecting that Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard would damage two ligaments in Brady's left knee in the opener. When that happened, New England was prepared. Backup Matt Cassell led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, but they missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
"Football's a tough game," Brady said. "We finish the season (in) late December. You have four months that you've had inactivity football-wise and you're going to go out there and try to be sharp. It's a bit challenging. So I think for all of us, I think the effort's been good. Obviously, the execution needs to be a lot better."
Wilfork: 'It's nothing personal'
Brady had much more than four months of football inactivity before the organized team activities. After the minicamp ends Friday, the Patriots won't formally practice until training camp starts in the second half of July.
On Monday, Brady was playing golf, but his day at The International club didn't start the way he'd like. He was the last of 11 Patriots players to hit in the long-drive contest. His best shot was measured at 281 yards, second to linebacker Tedy Bruschi's 287.
"How does it feel to be second place, Tom?" defensive lineman Jarvis Green, the master of ceremonies, jokingly said into the microphone.
Then Brady drove his cart toward the first tee. He asked for directions and had to turn around before briefly stopping at the empty practice green.
"I've got to get my putts in," he said.
After a few of those, Brady headed for the tee. He hit his drive, then posed for photos with Kraft and the other three members of the five-man group.
The knee injury, Brady said, hasn't affected his golf game.
"Golf's like riding a bike for me. I'm always consistently average," he said with a smile. "My putting, that's the problem."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press