Woods breaks par, unhappy with putting
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Same story, different day for Tiger Woods.
This time, the tournament is the Players Championship and the course is the TPC Sawgrass. But his road to a 1-under-par 71 in the opening round was the same one he has traveled several times this year.
"I hit the ball well today, I really did," said Woods, who has lamented his inability to put all aspects of his game together this year. "It's just unfortunately I didn't capitalize on my opportunities today. I had quite a few of them."
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His 71 left him 6 strokes back of first-round leader Ben Crane (7-under-par 65) on a day when 20 players were within three shots of the lead.
Woods made an eagle and two birdies, all on par-5s, to offset three bogeys, including two in his last four holes. He got up and down from right of the green at the No. 9 -- his final hole -- with a nifty lob shot to set up a birdie and get under par.
It was just Woods' 10th round under par at the TPC Sawgrass since winning the tournament in 2001 -- a span in which he's shot only five rounds in the 60s. Since then, he has failed to finish among the top 10 at the Players and his tie for 53rd in 2005, his tie for 22nd in 2006 and his tie for 37th in 2007 were his worst finishes in each of those years on the PGA Tour. Woods did not play last year while recuperating from knee surgery.
"I hit the ball well enough to ... this is probably the highest score I could have shot today, and I didn't get a whole lot out of my round," Woods said. "That's the way it goes."
Starting on the 10th hole, Woods had four straight birdie opportunities inside of 12 feet but failed to make any of them. He hit a poor drive at the 14th hole that led to a bogey. At the par-5 16th, Woods hit a 7-iron from 163 yards to 3 feet to set up an eagle, then lipped out a 9-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th.
On the front side, Woods hit six of seven fairways but just five of nine greens, failing to get up and down for par twice. He two-putted the second green for a birdie but also missed birdie putts inside of 10 feet twice.
"I didn't hit good putts," Woods said. "My speed was off early, then I got my speed down at the end and I kept lipping out putts. I just need to obviously read them better or hit better putts, one of the two."
This is Woods' sixth tournament since returning after an eight-month layoff due to knee surgery and his fifth in stroke play. The No. 1-ranked player in the world has been among the top 10 in all four of his stroke-play events, including a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a fourth-place finish last week at the Quail Hollow Championship, where he missed a playoff by 2 strokes.
Bog Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.