January 26, 2018

Tiger shoots even par in round one of Farmers Insurance Open

LA JOLLA, Calif. – Taking time to appreciate the ocean views and chat with his playing partners, Tiger Woods got off to a promising start Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course, his first PGA Tour start in a year.

Playing the longer South Course in cool but sunny conditions, Woods posted an even-par 72, carding three birdies and three bogeys. He’s tied for 84th, seven strokes behind pacesetter Tony Finau.

“I still feel the same excitement, the same nerves, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to play that first hole as well,” said Woods.
The 42-year-old Woods has recorded eight pro victories at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open. But he has yet to tame the testy 431-yard par-4 first hole. He played it 5-over par in 2008, bogeyed it in the first round last year, and bogeyed it again Thursday.

Not that he was alone. There were more bogeys (17) than birdies (13) and it played to a 4.05 stroke average.

Woods steadied and hit 12 of 18 greens and eight of 14 fairways, although he hopes both numbers will improve Friday on the remodeled North track. He used 31 putts and didn’t convert from outside four feet, his longest birdie coming from just inside two feet.

“I didn’t hit my irons very well today,” he said. “I didn’t give myself a lot of looks out there and consequently I didn’t make a lot of birdies.”

While he ranked 16th in the 132-player field in driving distance at 299.1, (I thought I read he was ninth at 314. Can you double check this please?)he failed to capitalize on the par-5s, playing them in even-par.

Wood knew the less true and bumpier Poa annua greens would be an adjustment after practicing and playing on Bermuda putting surfaces at home in Florida.

“Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll drive it a little better, get my irons obviously a little closer and we get the better of the two greens,” said Woods. “So we’ll see what happens.”

That said, Woods finished with zero back pain, his best stat of the day.

He missed the cut at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, his first full-field start on the PGA Tour since August of 2015 at the Wyndham Championship. Woods has undergone four back surgeries since 2014, most recently in April of 2017, when he underwent a spinal fusion procedure.

“It was the only step I had left,” he said.

On Wednesday, he expressed his excitement about returning to competition, but tempered his enthusiasm by reminding the media that regaining top form will take time.

“To be honest, I just want to start playing on the Tour and get into a rhythm of playing a schedule again,” Woods said. “I haven’t done that in such a long time, so I don’t know what to expect.”

Paired with local favorite Charley Hoffman and Patrick Reed, and followed by an enormous opening round gallery, Woods showed flashes of the brilliance that has helped him accumulate 79 PGA Tour wins and 14 major titles, both second all-time. While he found two fairway bunkers and five greenside traps, his chipping was solid and he made several nice par saves.

Plus, after slipping to 2-over through five holes, the round could have gotten away from him.

The shot of the day came at the uphill 188-yard par-3 16th hole, where Woods nearly dunked his tee shot, the ball stopping eight inches from the cup.

“It was just a firm 6-iron, just tried to throw it up on the air as high as I could because the greens were really springy and it felt good, looked good, and we listened for some noise,” he said.

Woods has three aces on Tour, scoring his first at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open in his pro debut on the 14th hole during the final round. He made his second at the 1997 Waste Management Open at TPC Scottsdale in the third round, electrifying the fans in the rowdy stadium-type setting at the 16th hole, then added his third on the seventh hole of the 1998 International at Castle Pines Country Club in Colorado.

Thursday’s scoring average was pretty similar. The field averaged 71.62 on the South Course and 71.32 on the North, with 41 of the 73 sub-par scores coming on the South. The projected 36-hole cut is 1-under.

On Friday, Woods tees off on the 10th hole at 12:30 p.m. ET with Hoffman and Reed.

“It was fun to compete again,” said Woods.

The second round will be televised on the Golf Channel from 3-7 p.m. ET. Saturday coverage runs from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel, then moves to CBS from 4-7 p.m. On Sunday, Golf Channel coverage goes from 1-2:45 p.m. ET, then shifts to CBS from 3-6:30 p.m.