Woods struggles at Quail Hollow
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This is more of what we might have expected from Tiger Woods after nearly five months away from tournament golf.
Wayward drives, inconsistent irons, shaky putting -- all of that was apparent Thursday during the opening round of the Quail Hollow Championship, Woods' second tournament of the year.
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"It wasn't just the driver, it was everything; I had a two-way missing going, which is great," Woods said sarcastically. "It was one of those days."
Woods shot a 2-over-par 74 at Quail Hollow, his first over-par score of his brief season so far. He shot four sub-par rounds three weeks ago at the Masters, where he tied for fourth.
Thursday's early morning round saw Woods make his first double-bogey of the year, and included back-to-back holes where he hit into water hazards. He hit just 9 of 18 greens in regulation and only 4 of 14 fairways.
Woods finished nine strokes behind leader Bo Van Pelt, who shot 7-under-par 65, in a tie for 89th.
"I was struggling so bad today," Woods said. "I didn't know which way it was going to go. I was just trying to piece a round together. One good round tomorrow and I can get back in it."
Phil Mickelson, playing in his first tournament since winning the Masters on April 11, was sluggish after having to withdraw from the Wednesday pro-am due to illness and seemed to run out of energy toward the end of his round, bogeying the final two holes.
Mickelson still shot 2-under-par 70, and is tied for 15th.
"I'll take it, but I've actually had some good omens when I've not felt good,'' Mickelson said. "The last couple times where this has happened, I've ended up playing very well and even won at Doral a year ago. So it's a good omen. I just need to just pace myself, which I did, and played well. I may have run out of a little bit of energy there toward the end, but I hit some good shots and was able to shoot a decent round for the first round.''
Woods began with a birdie on the par-5 10th hole, then struggled for most of the back nine. He hit just one of seven fairways and only three of nine greens in regulation. Somehow he managed to keep a shot under a tree after a poor drive at the par-5 15th, helping him save par.
But at the par-3 17th, his tee shot was left and in the water, leading to a double bogey-5. At the par-4 18th, he again pulled his tee shot into the water, leading to a bogey. Another bogey came at the par-4 No. 1 hole after a drive well to the right, putting him 4 over for the tournament.
Woods started finding some form after that, finally hitting a few fairways, one of which led to a two-putt birdie at the par-5 fifth hole. But a bogey at the last hole ruined what had been a decent final eight holes.
A day earlier, Woods said it took some reflection for him to come to terms with what he accomplished at the Masters.
After a long layoff due to a self-imposed leave following revelations of marital infidelity, and after just five rounds of competitive golf, Woods said he is struggling with trying to cut himself some slack.
"I try and be easy on myself, but I know what I can do and I'm not doing it," said Woods, who acknowledged that he is not having the same issues when he practices. "It's just a matter of carrying it to the golf course. And I haven't done that yet."
Grouped with reigning British Open champion Stewart Cink and two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, Woods teed off first to nice applause on the 10th tee at 7:40 a.m. ET, with temperatures at about 45 degrees.
Woods birdied the first hole and didn't seem bothered by the brisk weather. But by the time his sweater came off six holes into the round, his game failed to heat up as the temperature did.
"I had my head down, struggling," he said. "I was dropping balls out of hazards and playing balls out of trees. I had my own issues out there."
Last year, Woods finished fourth at Quail Hollow after opening the tournament with a 65. He won here in 2007.
Asked if he might try to figure out his problems in an afternoon practice session, Woods chuckled.
"I'm not going to the range today," he said. "Hell with it."
Bob Harig is a golf writer for ESPN.com.
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