Woods opened with a mediocre one-over 71 at PGA National.
He had his moments, where his ballstriking was good, but he failed to find the consistency needed to put together a solid round. Woods only hit 8 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation. He also needed 30 putts. In other words, he scrapped his way around the difficult track.
“Yeah, it certainly wasn’t together today,” said Woods following his round.
Tiger struggled the most with his putting, and when he was rolling it well, he scrambled with his ballstriking.
“Well, I didn’t make much,” he said “I had probably the first four holes right out of the gate, I had four good looks and didn’t make any of them. Then I made three good saves in a row at 16, 17, 18, which was nice, and then didn’t really hit the ball that well on the back nine. Then I started putting better. Figures.
“I hit it good starting out. Hit it kind of scrappy in the middle and then hit it good at the end. But it was just one or the other, I either hit it good and missed the putt, and then scrap around and make a putt.”
Woods also had trouble reading the grain of the greens.
“Didn’t get into a roll early — I told you I had four good looks early and they were easy putts, too, and I just didn’t have the speed right.,” he said. “The grain is pretty strong out there and I read it wrong a few times.
“They are slower but they are really grainy, and I got fooled on the grain a few times today, how much it tugged. We were talking about it out there today in our group, how much how different this golf course plays this year compared to last year. They were as slippery as can be last year where now they are sticky and slower.”
Well, PGA National is just down the road from Tiger’s home in Jupiter Island, so there’s no excuse for not coming out to play extra practice rounds. However, that would create a circus and the course would probably have to be closed to the public, etc., to accommodate him. Which sounds like a pain. I get it.
Not all was lost in his effort.
“I hit it good enough to shoot probably at least three or four lower than I did,” said Tiger. “I had so many looks where I just missed, and I just need to be I just need to read them a little bit better than I did today.”
With the afternoon wave still on the course, Woods is currently T89, outside of the cut line.
Meanwhile, Tiger’s playing partner, Zach Johnson had the turnaround of the day. Johnson made a quadrupled bogey on no. 11, his second hole of the day.
“I had 184 yards to the hole, so I thought it was more down off the right, but we misjudged the wind,” said Johnson. “I had 7 out, went to a 6 and still hit it in the water. Didn’t hit it that bad of a shot. I hit it right of my target but I hit it really solid, and you know, it’s a tough hole. It’s a tough second shot.
“But I had no excuse other than the fact that I miss clubbed twice and probably was overaggressive on the second one. After you hit one in there, you have to get it on the green. That’s just asinine.”
However, Zach stayed patient and remembered it was only the second hole of the golf tournament.
“It was a day where it could have gone the other way, quick,” he said. “But I was really felt great about my game going in.
“So it was just a matter of hitting a few solid shots. I made about a 20-footer on 13, you know, and I know that’s only one putt, but after missing one on 12, I thought you know, what I hit it bad making that putt, getting back to 3over was kind of big. That was good.
“And after that, I don’t think I missed a green. I didn’t miss a green in regulation. I might have missed maybe one or two fairways but hit my driver great, hit everything good.”
Indeed, Johnson, the world no. 7, was practically flawless, rolling in seven birdies in the next 16 holes to fire an impressive three-under 67.
Even Woods was incredibly complimentary.
“Zach put on pretty much a clinic on how to do it,” said Woods. “I just need to do it…
“Not surprising knowing how tough this guy is. We were talking about it in there, he was pretty stoked about what he did today, and he was talking about, you know, Comeback Player of the Year and all that kind of stuff, and he definitely had a comeback player of the day award. I imagine if you flip it around and start off that way and finish that way, yeah, he would be pretty pissed.
“So he would much rather have it this way and fight back and earn it and get it this way. You have a certain feeling going into the next day than if he would have flipped it around.”
Keegan Bradley and his caddie Steven “Pepsi” Hale also complimented Johnson on his turnaround.
“(Bradley) just said it was impressive,” said Zach. “Pepsi was very — evidently he was impressed. He said a lot but he was very kind.”
Luke Donald also got off to a slow start, but he managed to rally and post a three-under 67. Donald opened his round bogey, double-bogey, but from there, he went bogey-free and rolled in six birdies.
“Obviously not the start I wanted, but I think those are tough holes out of the gate early in the morning, and you know, some of the changes I made to my golf swing, I think that was just — I’m just not quite trusting it under the pressure, and certainly I knew there was a bunch of holes left and I felt like I’ve been swinging well for the last few weeks, and just had to stay patient,” said Donald. “Made some good putts and made some good shots.”
So, what happened on those first two holes?
“I hit two good tee shots, 10 and 11, and just iron shots like came out a little bit,” he said. “I think from having made some changes in my swing, that’s kind of the mistake, the old mistake coming back in. So yeah, it’s just more of a case of I was a little off on those and it cost me on 11 and got me off to a very slow start. But I’ve been feeling pretty good about my game the last few weeks and how I’ve been striking it and just had to stay patient. Fortunately, there were 16 holes in front of me and I played those very well.”
Donald and Johnson are both currently tied for 8th.
Rory Sabbatini and Will McGirt share the clubhouse lead with a pair of five-under 65s.