Saying he had a poor warm-up session prior to the year’s first major championship, Woods bogeyed the last two holes at Augusta National Golf Club to shoot even-par 72.
Five times Woods missed fairways to the left with badly hooked shots off the tee, including the first, second and 18th holes. He was four shots behind leader Louis Oosthuizen.
“Today I squeezed a lot out of that round,” Woods said. “Didn’t hit it very good at all. Warmed up bad, too, and it continued on the golf course. I just felt my way around today. I really grinded, stayed very present. And you know, I know how to play this golf course. I think it’s just understanding what I need to do.”
Woods headed to the driving range immediately after briefly discussing his round with reporters.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Spain’s Angel Miguel Jimenez — who played with Woods — and Italy’sFrancesco Molinari shot 3-under-par 69s. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson got to 6 under at one point but made a record-tying 8 on the final hole to drop back.
“This golf course is playing too difficult to go super low on,” Woods said. “What Henrik was doing early, that was pretty impressive. Some of these pins are really tough. No one was tearing it up.”
The 14-time major champion, who has won the Masters four times, came to Augusta off his first official victory in more than two years. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 25 and figured to be a strong contender here, where he has not finished worse than sixth since his last victory in 2005.
And he still may be.
Significant rain preceding the tournament left Augusta National soft but playing long, and officials appeared to set up the course more difficult to combat it. While there are many scores under par, there are not a lot of low ones.
Woods hit just six of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens and was 0 for 3 from the sand. But he needed just 29 putts.
He got off to a poor start, snap hooking his drives on both the first and second holes, the tee shot on the second hole requiring him to take an unplayable lie. But Woods scrambled to make par at both holes, then finally found a fairway and green at the third and made his first birdie.
His only front-nine bogey came at the seventh when his ball collected mud and his second shot landed in a front bunker. Woods then followed with birdies at the eighth and 10th holes but was unable to make birdies at either of the back-nine par-5s.
Woods found the back bunker at the par-5 13th and then blasted long, then hit a poor drive left at the 15th, meaning he had to lay up. A poor drive led to another bogey at the 17th when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker, and then another bad drive at the 18th caused him to take another unplayable lie and a penalty stroke.
The poor warm-up was a surprise and Woods said it didn’t provide a great frame of mind going to the first tee.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I didn’t warm up well. I hit a few loose ones, but I said just stay committed. Whatever happens, just stay committed on each and every shot. I did that. I really stayed committed to what I was doing.
“I made some bad swings. That’s fine. My commitment to each and every shot, what I was doing, my alignment, my setup, everything was something that I’m excited about and I can take some positives going into tomorrow about that. Granted, it might be late tomorrow, but at least I have something to build on.”
Woods was referencing his late tee time and the fact that a poor weather forecast could cause problems on Friday.
Only once in 18 Masters has Woods broke 70 in the first round. That came two years ago, when he was returning after a five-month layoff, and shot 68. Woods has broken 70 during the first round of a major on 14 occasions, and seven times went on to win.
“He’s been No. 1 before and now he’s not there but his game is there,” Jimenez said. “And he’s only 36, and he’s on top of the wave. It’s his passion. He’s a great player. It was always nice to play with him before and it’s nice to play with him now.
“I think he’s playing very, very well. The only thing is from the tee on this golf course, you are not in the right place from the tee, you have nothing to do here. And he’s managed to make — he finished level par, he finished bogey, bogey, and as I say, he’s playing very well.”