May 10, 2018

Tiger Finishes Round 1 of The Players at Even-Par 72

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The scoring wasn’t great, but the massive gallery stayed entertained Thursday watching Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler compete in the first round of the 45th Players Championship at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The much-anticipated pairing finished a combined 9-over par, with Woods pacing the trio with an even-par 72. He had to fight for it, salvaging a bogey at the par-4 18th hole after pulling an iron into the water off the tee, nailing a 10-foot putt.

“I didn’t want to shoot anything over par today,” said Woods. “I felt like I should have shot something in the 60s, but I didn’t do it.”

Woods is tied for 69th, six strokes behind a group of six headed by Dustin Johnson.

The build up was immense, as Woods and Mickelson were paired together for the first time since 2014 PGA Championship and only the second time in the tournament since the third round in 2001. But it was a struggle from the get-go, as Woods recorded a pair of front nine bogeys and reached the par-5 ninth tee at 2-over.

He jumped-started his round by sinking an 18-foot eagle putt to shoot even-par 36 on the first nine. Woods’ drilled his second shot from 245 yards to the back fringe.

“It was nice to turn the round completely around at nine,” he said.

Woods got into red figures with his first birdie at the par-4 12th, but gave it back with a bogey at the par-4 15th, where his drive rolled up near the lip in a fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up.

Woods rebounded with a birdie at the par-5 16th, where his second shot rolled through the green but he managed to get up and down. Woods nearly airmailed his tee shot into the water at the par-3 17th, which features an island green and was testier than usual due to swirling wind. He was fortunate to find the back collar and two-putted from long range to escape with a par.

Woods hit just five of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens. But after using 30 or more putts in every round last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, he used 28 on Thursday.

“I gotta drive it a lot better than I did today and obviously hit it closer,” said Woods, a two-time champion of the event. “There’s a lot of birdies out there.”

The drive at 18?

“It wasn’t like a drew a bad lie on that tee,” he said. “That was just a bad golf shot.”

Full concentration is required on the Pete Dye layout.

“He does a good job of making you uncomfortable,” said Woods. “There’s trouble on every shot.”

Woods gets an early start on Friday, teeing off at 8:27 a.m. ET on the 10th hole with Mickelson and Fowler.