Tiger Woods insisted he could take positives from a frustrating return at the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday after carding the worst season-opening round of his career.
The former world number one, who is battling back from a more than one-year injury layoff, struggled to get to grips with Torrey Pines’ challenging South Course before posting a four-over-par 76.
It was the highest season-opening round Woods has ever recorded, with his previous worst a 73 in 2015 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
But the 41-year-old took encouragement from a battling display in his first full-field event since 2015, which saw him move to one under after 11 before a slew of bogeys on the back nine torpedoed his momentum.
“I fought my tail off out there, I fought hard,” Woods said. “It was nice to put together a round when I wasn’t hitting it that great early.
“I was putting together the round. I was one under through 11 and I was in a good spot to really shoot a good round today and didn’t really have my best stuff early.
“That’s one of the positives I’m going to take out of it.”
Woods is hopeful he can make inroads on Friday, when he plays a North Course that could offer easier scoring conditions.
“We’re going to go over on some better greens tomorrow, some better conditions, and hopefully not only myself but the rest of the guys can put up some good numbers.”
Woods had opened with a bogey on the first after missing the green with his second shot. He chipped his third to nine feet but missed the subsequent putt to save par to move to one over.
It was emblematic of a scratchy front nine for Woods, who was soon in trouble on the par-four second when his approach found the bunker protecting the green.
He did well to get up and down in two though, draining an eight-foot putt to save par and avoid consecutive bogeys.
He parred the next three holes without managing to carve out any promising birdie chances, and was again frustrated on the sixth when a 16-foot birdie putt rolled just wide of the hole.
Three more pars closed out the front nine, with Woods sending a 19-foot putt just wide to leave him one over at the turn.
His fortunes seemed to be turning on the 10th, when a 140-yard iron from the fairway rough presented him with a 10-foot putt for birdie.
He duly sank it to go back to level par and was soon contemplating another birdie chance on the 215-yard par-three 11th when his tee-shot went to 10 feet. He made that putt to go one under.
However just when it looked as if his momentum was picking up, his round stalled on the 485-yard par-four 12th, when after needing three shots to reach the green he was left with a 15-foot putt to save par.
He was unable to prevent the bogey and was back in trouble on the 539-yard par-five 13th, when he three-putted from 50 feet for another bogey.
A further bogey on 14 — when a 15-foot par putt lipped out — put him at two over.
– ‘Can’t panic’ –
It got worse on the 15th, when a wild tee shot flew wide of the fairway and forced a drop, with his third shot landing in the rough still 216 yards from the pin.
His fourth for par left him 21 feet from the hole and he two-putted for a double bogey to drift out to four over for the day.
Another bogey was offset with his closing birdie on 18.
“I just kept compounding problems and mistakes out there,” said Woods, who nonetheless was pleased with some of his ball striking.
“I felt very comfortable, my feel was good. I hit some good ones out there.”
Playing partner Jason Day, the world number one, meanwhile called on fans to be patient with Woods as he returns to golf.
“Having 17 months off is a very, very, long time,” Day said. “We can’t just break down everything he did today because it’s been 17 months.
“Let him go a year and go from there. That’s the same with us. We can’t panic too much at the start of the year.” – Agence France-Presse