‘Rusty’ Woods off to even-par start in latest comeback bid
“It was fun to compete again,” Woods said after a round that included three birdies and three bogeys. “I was probably a little rusty.”
Even so, he gave a large, enthusiastic gallery a thrill at the par-three 16th, where his six-iron off the tee tracked the pin all the way, bounced once and settled eight inches from the pin for the tap-in birdie.
“Just a full six-iron, just trying to throw it up in the air as high as I can,” Woods said of the shot that set up his third birdie of the day, which moved him back to even par for the round.
Otherwise Woods was rarely able to get it close. He’ll have work to do on Friday on the North Course, typically the more forgiving of the two in use over the first two rounds of the tournament.
He goes into the second round seven shots off the lead held by Tony Finau, who had nine birdies and two bogeys on the North Course, seizing sole possession of the lead with a birdie at the 18th for a 65.
Ryan Palmer and Ted Potter Jr. shared second place, both posting six-under 66s on the South Course.
“I’ve got to hit my irons better than I did today,” Woods said. “I didn’t hit them very close. I didn’t give myself a lot of looks out there.
“It’s hard to make a lot of birdies when you don’t give yourself a lot of looks.”
The 42-year-old superstar is playing his first Tour event since missing the cut at Torrey Pines last year — part of an abortive comeback bid after a 2016 spent on the sidelines.
Woods says spinal fusion surgery in April has left him feeling better than he has in years.
But Torrey Pines figured to be a tough test of his stamina as well as his skills after back fusion surgery in April.
He received a warm welcome from a big gallery at the first hole of Torrey Pines’ South Course, scene of his 14th and most recent major victory at the US Open in 2008.
– Opening bogey –
Woods, an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, was in the far left rough off the tee and then found a greenside bunker en route to an opening bogey.
Woods narrowly missed a 28-foot birdie attempt at the par-three third hole, but he dropped another shot at the par-four fifth, where he was in a left fairway bunker off the tee and blasted out to a greenside bunker.
Woods pulled a shot back with a textbook birdie at the par-five sixth, firing his tee shot 308 yards down the middle of the fairway.
His eagle attempt from 50 feet was just inches off.
Woods was relaxed enough to enjoy the Pacific Ocean view from the fourth hole, but there were signs of frustration as well, including a swipe of his club after he found the rough off the tee at the par-three eighth as he closed the front nine with back-to-back pars.
Woods got back to even-par with his second birdie of the day at the par-four 10th, where his second shot left him less than two feet from the pin.
But he was back at one-over after a bogey at the par-five 13th, where he was in the right rough off the tee.
His second shot left him in the fairway 97 yards from the flag, but from there Woods found a greenside bunker.
His shot out left him three feet to save par, but his putt lipped out.
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