March 01, 2012

Putter proves to be unwieldy for Woods in Round 1

His putting stroke felt good, but the ball refused to drop. So it went for Tiger Woods on Thursday in the first round of The Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Woods was sharp from tee to green, hitting 15 greens in regulation. But after pouring in a 19-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first hole, his putter went cold. It would be his only make from 10 feet or beyond during a 1-over-par round of 71, which saw him use 34 putts.

“I hit a lot of pure putts today,” Tiger said. “They rolled over a lot of edges. They just didn’t quite go in.”

Woods is tied for 68th and trails leader Davis Love III by seven strokes, although two players have yet to complete their rounds and will do so early Friday. Love, sparked by a hole-in-one on the fifth hole, equaled the course record with a 64. He’ll captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team later this year.

An early-afternoon starter, Woods was supposed to play with Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. But Poulter was forced to withdraw and was replaced by rookie Miguel Angel Carballo.

After the promising start, Woods followed with four consecutive pars, missing birdie attempts of 20 feet at the second hole, 17 feet at the third hole and 15 feet at the fourth hole. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls before playing from the fairway.

At the par-4 sixth, Tiger drove into the right rough, missed the green, hit a poor chip and two-putted for a bogey from 37 feet. He also dropped a shot at the par-3 seventh, where he missed the green left and was unable to get up and down, failing to convert from 10 feet.

Woods two-putted the par-4 eighth for par from 24 feet, then closed out the side with a birdie at the 421-yard, par-4 ninth. After a good drive, he knocked his second shot from 161 yards to nine feet and made the putt to make the turn at even-par 35.

On the back nine, Woods started strong by carding his second straight birdie at the 496-yard, par-4 10th hole. Following a nice drive, he flagged his second shot from 185 yards to three feet and polished off the putt.

Woods two-putted for a par from long range at the par-4 11th hole, then lost another shot at the 438-yard, par-4 12th. After driving into the first cut of left rough, he hit his approach shot 47 feet below the hole. Tiger ran his birdie putt five feet past the cup and missed coming back, settling for bogey.

At the short, 388-yard, par-4 13th, Woods again drove into the first cut of the left rough, then hit his second shot from 101 yards 18 feet right of the cup. His putt looked true and caught most of the cup, but lipped out to the left.

Woods two-putted the par-4 14th hole for a par from 57 feet, then reached the Bear Trap, a treacherous three-hole stretch ranked the toughest on the PGA Tour. At the 176-yard, par-3 15th, Tiger flushed a 7-iron over the back of the green, left his chip 11 feet short, and two-putted for a bogey.

Moving to the 452-yard, par-4 16th, where the green and right side of the hole are guarded by water, Woods found the fairway with a laser-beam 2-iron and had 186 yards remaining to the hole. Tiger hit his approach shot 42 feet short of the cup and nearly drained the uphill putt.

At the 189-yard, par-3 17th, facing another green flanked by water on the right, Woods hit a 6-iron on the left side of the green and two-putted for a par from 29 feet. As a result, he played the Bear Trap in 1-over par in his first appearance in the tournament as a professional.

Woods pounded a big drive at the 556-yard, par-5 18th hole and left himself in great position to finish with a birdie. But Tiger pulled his second shot into spongy rough left of the green with a 3-iron, hit a poor chip 16 feet short of the hole, and two-putted for a par.

“I didn’t get a whole lot out of my round,” he said. “I hit the ball a lot better than I scored, and I certainly putted well. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.”

Woods figures to need a sub-par score to climb into contention entering the weekend.

“Obviously I’m going to have to score better than I did today,” said Woods, who is playing the second of three straight tournaments. “Hopefully shoot something in the 60s and get myself within touch of the lead.”

Woods, who recently moved to the area, had great crowd support Thursday and is hoping for more of the same Friday.

“It was incredible,” he said. “It’s just pretty neat to be able to play in front of people like this. This is my new hometown. I live here. For everyone to come out and support this event, obviously with the charities involved, the Nicklaus family, it’s a fantastic event.”

Woods will tee off on the 10th hole with Westwood and Carballo at 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday.