March 08, 2012

Woods six back after first round at Doral

Tiger Woods got the start he wanted with an eagle at the par-5 first hole, but struggled in wind and scattered rain showers the rest of the way Thursday during the opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Resort & Spa in Miami.

Woods, coming off a tie for second last week at The Honda Classic, his best PGA Tour showing in more than two years, finished with an even-par 72 in blustery conditions that included gusts up to 31 mph. He is tied for 25th, six strokes behind co-leaders Jason Dufner and Adam Scott.

“It was just a very difficult day,” said Woods. “The wind was blowing putts around, and it made for a very challenging round.”

A late starter with Nick Watney and Sergio Garcia, Woods flagged his down-wind second shot from 170 yards just inside two feet on the first hole and polished off the eagle putt. At the par-4 second hole, he missed a 15-foot birdie putt.

After a nice up-and-down from just short of the green at the par-4 third hole, Woods knocked a 6-iron into the left greenside bunker at the 227-yard, par-3 fourth hole, blasted his shot from the sand eight feet beyond the cup, and lipped out his par attempt. That snapped a streak of 26 straight holes of par or better, dating back to the third round of The Honda Classic.

At the 394-yard par-4 fifth, Woods hit a nice drive, then hit a poor second shot from 148 yards that carried to the back of the green, leaving a 51-foot birdie putt. Tiger ran his first putt 13 feet past the cup and three-putted for a bogey.

“I hit a lot of good shots, just made a couple of mistakes with iron shots and it cost me two shots right in a row,” he said.

Following two-putt pars from the back fringe at the par-4 sixth and seventh holes, Woods pulled his drive into the left rough at the 560-yard, par-5 eighth. Although no one had reached the green in two all day, Tiger had a small opening between palm trees and over water, and decided to gamble. He flushed a fairway wood from 258 yards into the front-left bunker, hit a nice explosion shot eight feet past the cup and made the birdie putt.

Woods quickly dropped a shot, however, at the 154-yard, par-3 ninth. With distance being tricky to judge because of the wind, his 7-iron rolled to the back of the green, resulting in a 70-foot downhill putt. Tiger left his birdie attempt 12 feet short of the hole and three-putted for a bogey to make the turn in even-par 36.

Woods two-putted the par-5 10th hole for par from 15 feet, then did well to two-putt for par from the back fringe at the par-4 11th, making a six-foot putt. At the 603-yard, par-5 12th, the longest hole on the course, Woods drove into the left rough, slashed his second shot just above a fairway bunker on the left, gouged his third shot from 107 yards to within 15 feet of the cup, and made the birdie putt.

Tiger caught a good break at the 237-yard, par-3 13th, where he pulled his drive to the left but hit a spectator and was left with a clear shot. Woods hit a nice sand wedge seven feet from the cup and made the par putt.

Woods just missed an 18-foot birdie try at the par-4 14th hole, then hit a nice tee shot at the 158-yard, par-3 15th, the ball stopping nine feet behind the hole. He was unable to convert, settling for a par.

At the short, par-4 16th, Woods hit driver just short of the green and had 59 yards left to the hole. His sand wedge checked up 16 feet short of the cup and he two-putted for a par.

Tiger hit two nice shots at the 419-yard, par-4 17th, but left his 16-foot birdie putt just short.

At the demanding, 467-yard, par-4 18th — known as the Blue Monster because of water down the entire left side of the narrow hole — Woods drove way right and was left with a difficult, 205-yard second shot from a downhill, sidehill lie over water. Tiger hit a courageous shot that came up just short of the green and hung up on a slope above the water, then misjudged a low pitch-and-run that wound up 19 feet short-left of the cup and two-putted for a bogey.

How tough was No. 18? It played to a stroke average of 4.743, higher than three of the par 5s.

“I played some really solid golf,” said Woods. “I just couldn’t quite make enough birdies.”

Woods hit seven of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens in regulation and used 30 putts, three-putting twice.

“For some reason, I kept hitting every drive in the first cut, so it compounded the problem,” Woods said of the rough and wind. “I had to consequently play very conservative on a lot of the shots.”

A six-time winner of the event, Woods begins second-round play off the 10th tee on Friday at 11:40 a.m. ET with Watney and Garcia. Seventy-four players are competing this week, and there is no cut in the second of four WGC tournaments this year.