Tiger Catches Fire Late, Shoots 2-under 70 Thursday at Players Championship
Steve DiMeglio, author for Golfweek
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Playing a week after he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a neck strain, Tiger Woods was taking it on the chin from a brute called the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Thursday’s first round of The Players Championship.
Woods withstood an early barrage, however, took the lead on points round the turn and outlasted a back-and-forth on the back nine to get the better of the muscled-up, 7,189-yard Stadium with a 2-under-par 70.
He stood five shots out of the lead set by Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley. World No. 6 Rory McIlroy, who has five top-6 finishes in five starts this year, also is on the first page of the leaderboard at 67.
The Stadium Course was fierce, especially with swirling winds that arrived around noon and sharpened its teeth. Ninety minutes later, Woods was wobbly at the start, which included a snap-hook drive off the second tee that banged against trees and came to a stop just 190 yards away. His bogey on the third was the result of a tee shot left of the green, from where he was forced to pitch sideways.
Woods fought back starting on the fourth as his tee balls started to find the intended targets and his approaches the greens. Birdies at the seventh, 10th, 12th and 13th got him to 2 under. His lone bogey during his bend around the turn came at the par-5 11th when his second shot from 251 yards ended in a water hazard.
Woods finished with two birdies and two bogeys in his final five holes and made just one par on the back nine…