June 26, 2014

Tiger closes first round on high note at Quicken Loans National

Playing his first competitive round since undergoing back surgery over three months ago, Tiger knew his game would be rusty. He was right, but Woods settled in after a rough start to shoot a 3-over 74 on Thursday in the opening round of the $6.5 million Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

An early back-nine starter with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, Woods bogeyed the first two holes and was 6-over through 12. But the tournament host looked more comfortable down the stretch and birdied three of his last six holes.

“My score is not indicative of how well I played,” Woods said. “I made so many little mistakes.”

More importantly, he had no problems with his back and even made some aggressive swings with his driver.

“My back is great,” he said. “It felt fantastic.”

Tiger, who has never failed to finish in the top 20 in this event, is tied for 83rd after his seven-bogey, four-birdie performance.

Greg Chalmers of Australia birdied the last three holes to earn the first-round lead with a 5-under 66. That earned him a one-stroke advantage over Ricky Barnes and Freddie Jacobson. Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient who tied for second in the U.S. Open, birdied the last four holes to head a group of four players at 68.

Still, the man of the day was Woods. The 79-time PGA TOUR champion played well from tee to green, hitting nine of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens. But he struggled with his short game and used 31 putts.

“You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff, but it’s not the same,” Tiger said. “The adrenaline is missing, and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home.”

Following the two early bogeys, Woods parred Nos. 12 and 13, then hit a nice approach shot within nine feet of the hole at the 467-yard, par-4 14th. Tiger would sink the birdie putt, but he dropped shots at the par-4 15th, 17th and 18th holes to make the turn in 4-over 39.

On the second nine, Tiger bogeyed the par-3 second and par-4 third holes. The 14-time major winner seemed in danger of letting the round get away from him. But Woods hit a beautiful approach shot three feet from the pin at the 470-yard, par-4 fourth, spun his tee shot four feet from the cup at the 159-yard, par-3 seventh, then hit a nice second shot to three feet at the 354-yard, par-4 eighth.

Tiger failed to birdie any of the three par-5s, but he will look to change that Friday when he begins second-round play at 1:12 p.m. ET on the first tee with Day and Spieth.

“I was trying to get the numbers and the feel,” Woods said of his tough start. “That didn’t start happening until midway through my front nine.”

First place is worth $1,170,000. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation and local charities.