BETHESDA, Md. – Tiger Woods was back on the PGA Tour for the first time in more than three months Thursday and said he felt “fantastic.”
He was talking about his back, not his game.
One day into his most recent return from injury, that’s what mattered to him.
Woods opened with two straight bogeys, made five more bogeys in a seven-hole stretch around the turn at tough Congressional and finally found his groove late in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National for a 3-over 74.
Woods was tied for 83rd – only 19 players had a higher score – and he will have to score better Friday if he wants to avoid missing the cut for the first time in two years.
“I made so many little mistakes,” Woods said. “So I played a lot better than the score indicated.”
Congressional had a lot to do with that.
Two weeks after a U.S. Open that had no rough, Congressional made it feel like one. Any shot just off the fairway was buried, making it difficult for even the powerful players to reach the green on some of the longer par 4s.
Greg Chalmers finished with three straight birdies for a 66 and a one-shot lead over Ricky Barnes and Freddie Jacobson. Defending champion Bill Haas, Patrick Reed, U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton and Tyrone Van Aswegen shot 68.
“I didn’t think it was easy at all,” Chalmers said. “I played really well, and I think anybody who plays really well can shoot a low score.”
Only 26 players in the 120-man field broke par.
This day, however, was all about Woods.
Even with an early start, the gallery lined the entire left side of the 218-yard 10th hole, with hundreds of others watching from the patio and veranda of the famed clubhouse at Congressional.
Two holes into Woods’ opening round, they had reason to ask: We waited three months for this?
But it wasn’t just Woods. He played with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, and that trio of top-10 players combined for six bogeys in two holes.
Woods looked about the same as he has all year. He gave away shots with his short game, with some ordinary chips and not making as many putts as he once did.
On his second hole, No. 11, he had a 50-foot putt from the fringe that came up 18 feet short of the hole. He later missed consecutive 6-foot putts – one for birdie, one for par.
He did most of the damage to his card around the turn, failing to get up-and-down for par on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes, hitting a poor chip from the side of a bunker on the long par-3 second, pulling a pitching wedge into a bunker on No. 3 and missing a 5-foot putt.
That put him at 6 over for the round. At the time, Day was 4 over and Spieth was 5 over.
“We were all kind of looking to break 80,” Woods said. “It was a bit of a fight today for all of us, but we all hung in there.”