LOS ANGELES: A lost ball, some errant drives and some “really silly bogeys” added up to a one-over-par 72 for Tiger Woods in his return to Riviera Country club on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
The 14-time major champion, playing just his second US PGA Tour event since spinal fusion surgery last April, was erratic off the tee.
But as at Torrey Pines three weeks ago he displayed a solid short game in an eventful round that included five birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey.
After rolling in a nine-foot birdie putt at his opening hole, the 10th, Woods quickly found himself in trouble when a wayward tee shot at the 11th lodged in a eucalyptus tree, costing him his double bogey.
A bogey at the 12th had him two-over and in recovery mode the rest of the way.
“I was at one-under early, first hole, and all of a sudden I went double bogey-bogey and I was like, ‘Oh, man, here we go,’” Woods said. “I’ve got to somehow turn this thing around.”
Two more birdies and a bogey saw him make the turn at one-over, and he was even for the day after a birdie at the first.
Then came bogeys at five and seven — where he was dismayed to drop a shot from the fairway.
“I made really silly bogeys out there, in particular number seven,” Woods said. “It was not very good from the middle of the fairway.
“But overall I thought I hung in there and grinded.”
After a birdie at the eighth, Woods’s chances of finishing even for the day evaporated with one last wayward tee shot at the ninth, where he was so far right he was in a bunker off the 10th fairway.
He blasted it up to the fringe to salvage a par and pronounced the overall performance “all right”.
“You know, no one’s going low out there, it’s too hard,” said Woods, who was five shots off the early lead held by Tom Hoge, Dominic Bozzelli and Sam Saunders, who were all in the clubhouse on four-under par 67.
“Coming down the last probably four, five, six holes, the greens are starting to get a little bouncy and those short ones are not easy.”
Johnson in trouble
World number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson teed off in the afternoon and was four-over through six holes. His early struggles included a triple-bogey seven at the par-four fifth.
Woods has a long history at Riviera, where he played his first US PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992.
But in 11 prior appearances he has never won here, and he hadn’t teed it up on the classic course west of downtown Los Angeles since 2006.
In his return he played in a marquee pairing with former world number one Rory McIlroy and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas.
McIlroy overcame three bogeys with a birdie and an eagle at the par-five first—where he rolled in a 30-footer—for an even par 71.
Thomas had five birdies in a two-under 69.
“I bogeyed the two par fives on the back nine, which usually is my bread and butter,” McIlroy said. “But then nice eagle at the first and played much better on our second nine.”