Tiger fires opening 3-under 69 at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods hits his tee shot at No. 9, his last hole of the day, during the first round. He posted a 69.

Tiger Woods hits his tee shot at No. 9, his last hole of the day, during the first round. He posted a 69.

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Hilton Head, SC - Harbour Town Golf Links

2:25:12 PM ET. 04/17/2014




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ORLANDO, Fla. – For the first time in a week and a half, Tiger Woods on Thursday wasn’t peppered with questions about his ailing body. “Everything is good,” he said, smiling.

For now, at least, the former World No. 1 is being asked about his golf game. Or, more accurately, if shooting 3-under 69 without his best stuff was an encouraging sign.

“I really didn’t do anything great today,” Woods said after the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he is three shots off the lead among the early starters at Bay Hill. “Just solid all day.”

This is Woods' fifth consecutive round, after a Sunday practice round at Augusta National, two days of the Tavistock Cup exhibition and a pro-am here at Bay Hill. He looks great physically, despite two highly publicized health scares over the past two weeks.

In Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods wrenched his back after stopping his swing upon hearing the click from a photographer’s camera. He winced, grabbed his lower back and stretched, but afterward said he was “good to go.” It was disconcerting nonetheless, for Woods already was recovering from a mild strain of his left Achilles tendon, which forced his withdrawal during the final round of the World Golf Championship event at Doral. That injury no longer appears to be an issue; he was seen stretching his lower leg on the first tee, before his round began, but showed no discomfort thereafter.

“(The injury) is not in my mind at all,” Woods said. “I’m just out there playing. I’m feeling good.”

For good reason. Woods, a six-time winner of this event, took advantage of the reachable par 5s at Bay Hill, playing them in 3 under par for the day (which included a three-putt par on the par-5 fourth). He hit nine of 14 fairways despite dialing it back with the driver, saying he “didn’t really feel great with my tee shots.”

Tiger wasn’t particularly sharp with his irons either, though he hit 14 greens. He averaged 39 feet on his approach shots - including just one inside 15 feet - a significant reason why he required 32 putts. Nonetheless, he dropped birdie putts of 32 (No. 15) and 19 feet (No. 6), negating his two misses inside 5 feet.

“It’s just one of those days where there’s not a lot going on,” Woods said.

How refreshing.

- Ryan Lavner

• • •

Here is shot-by-shot coverage of Tiger's first round on Thursday, as well as updates from the rest of the course:

No. 9: Par 4, 474 yards

Tiger reaches his final hole of the day, two shots back of Anthony Kim's lead.

Tiger hits a fairway bunker to the left with his tee ball, his third fairway bunker hit of the day.

Facing a tough shot on the upslope of the bunker, Tiger hits a great shot to the green and give himself a shot at the birdie, about 15 feet under the hole.

The putt slides by and he picks up a two-putt par to card a 3-under 69 on the first day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger on the day: 3-under 69 (round over)

• • •

No. 8: Par 4, 460 yards

Tiger uses 3-wood off the tee and finds the middle of the fairway as he looks to make a move on his final two holes of the day.

Tiger flies his approach past the flag - which is on the front left - and will have about 25 feet back down the hill for birdie.

A slippery birdie putt comes up just short and he taps in for a par.

Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 17 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Anthony Kim remains at 5 under, now one shot ahead of Nick Watney and Charlie Wi.

• • •

No. 7: Par 3, 199 yards

Tiger plays a bold shot to the back left pin location and is rewarded with a 12-foot birdie attempt.

The birdie putt dribbles over the left edge and doesn't drop, settling for a par.

Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 16 holes)

• • •

No. 6: Par 5, 555 yards

This is the most unique par 5 on the course, highlighted by a 90-degree dogleg left, with water all the way down the left. Tiger pulls driver and runs through the fairway on the right.

He lands under a small tree and can only advance the ball about 100 yards down the fairway with his second shot. He will have a much longer third shot than he would like at a par 5.

With 160 yards left with his third shot, Tiger puts it on the green and will have about 20 feet for birdie.

After getting a good read from Els - who was on the same line - Tiger pours in the birdie putt to move within two shots of Anthony Kim's lead.

Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 15 holes)

• • •

No. 5: Par 4, 390 yards

With the wind picking up - likely around 15 mph - Tiger takes 3-wood off the tee and finds the left side of the fairway.

Tiger goes right after the flag with his approach, but lands 35 feet under the hole.

His distance control on the birdie putt is a bit rough and comes up about five feet short. He holes the putt for another par.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 14 holes)

• • •

No. 4: Par 5, 561 yards

Playing the front side's first par 5, Tiger busts a driver down the 4th fairway. He has taken advantage of all the par 5s today and has put himself in good position to do so again.

With a long iron in hand, Tiger puts it on the green to set up his third eagle putt of the day, this one the shortest at 27 feet.

He comes up about three feet short on his eagle attempt and then misses the short birdie attempt to settle for a three-putt par. It is his second miss inside of five feet.

Ernie Els does make birdie and moves to 3 under, two shots off the lead.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 13 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: K.J. Choi has moved to 3 under, two shots back of leader Anthony Kim. Meanwhile, Sean O'Hair picked up double-bogey on the par-4 18th to fall back to 1 under.

• • •

No. 3: Par 4, 434 yards

Tiger takes 3-wood and finds the right side of the fairway, finding a nice angle to attack the green, with water left and the wind blowing that way.

Tiger's distance control is way off on his approach, sailing his ball long. He swipes at the air with his club after the shot, obviously not happy with his result. The ball is on the green, but has nearly 40 feet for birdie.

He nearly holes the long birdie attempt, but settles for a two-putt par. Playing competitor Ernie Els birdies No. 3 to join Tiger at 2 under.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 12 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Anthony Kim has moved to 5 under - two clear of anyone else in the field - with a birdie at No. 1. The first time Kim had played Bay Hill was on Monday.

• • •

No. 2: Par 3, 231 yards

Tiger plays a big draw on the par 3, but comes up short and in the intermediate rough. He has an easy chip, but races it about four feet past.

He makes it to save par. It was the second hole in a row that he had to scramble to make par.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 11 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Sean O'Hair has a good round going, moving to 4 under after his fourth birdie in his first seven holes. He is tied with Anthony Kim for the lead.

• • •

No. 1: Par 4, 461 yards

Tiger takes 3-wood off the first tee, but pushes it into a fairway bunker on the right.

From there, he pushes his approach shot into a greenside bunker on the left.

Despite having little green to work with, Tiger plays a nice bunker shot to about four feet and makes the putt to save par.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 10 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Anthony Kim has vaulted into the lead at 4 under, making an ace at the par-3 17th hole.

• • •

No. 18: Par 4, 458 yards

Tiger takes 3-wood at the most iconic hole at Bay Hill and finds the fairway.

With the wind swirling a bit, Tiger changes clubs and ends up choosing the wrong one, putting his approach shot into the rough behind the hole.

With a fast chip for his third shot, Tiger plays it beautifully and taps in for a par to close his first none holes at 2-under 34.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 9 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Sean O'Hair is leading at 3 under, with nine players tied at 2 under.

• • •

No. 17: Par 3, 221 yards

Tiger's tee ball at the tough par 3 hits the back of the green and he'll have a lengthy birdie try.

From about 40 feet, Tiger burns the edge on his birdie attempt and leaves himself about five feet for par. He misses the putt for a three-putt bogey and falls out of the lead.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 8 holes)

• • •

No. 16: Par 5, 511 yards

It's a long par 5, but reachable with a good drive. Tiger pushes his tee ball a bit right and into a fairway bunker, which should necessitate a lay-up in front of the creek that lines the front of green.

But Tiger doesn't play things safe, going after the green and reaching it, leaving himself about 75 feet for eagle.

Before his second shot, Tiger had to stop his swing almost at impact after a little girl yelled. It didn't seem to hurt him, just came out of the bunker, tapped the sand from his shoes and regrouped.

Tiger lags his eagle putt to about six feet right of the cup. He makes it for his third birdie in his first seven holes and is now tied with Sean O'Hair atop the leaderboard.

Tiger on the day: 3 under (thru 7 holes)

• • •

No. 15: Par 4, 467 yards

Tiger takes driver off the tee and hits a cut that he seems to love. After the nice tee ball, Tiger hits his approach shot to about 35 feet.

And Tiger makes the long-range birdie putt, whirlpooling it in to move to within a shot of the lead.

Tiger on the day: 2 under

Elsewhere on the course: Chris Stroud has moved to 3 under thru 8 holes to hold the lead, while Bud Cauley and Anthony Kim are at 2 under.

• • •

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• • •

No. 14: Par 3, 215 yards

The first par 3 of the day for Tiger, and he hits it left and doesn't like it. He bends his knees in disgust. He lands in a bunker short of the green.

He hits his bunker shot to about six feet to the right of the hole. He drains the par putt to stay in red figures.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 5 holes)

• • •

No. 13: Par 4, 370 yards

Tiger plays a 3-wood stinger down the middle on the short par 4.

With another short iron in his hands, Tiger takes advantage this time, sticking it to within 15 feet for a look at a second straight birdie.

Tiger misses well to the low side on his birdie attempt, sliding past by at least two feet. He makes the comebacker for a par.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 4 holes)

• • •

No. 12: Par 5, 574 yards

Tiger takes driver off the long par 5 and hits it down the right and near the rough. Tiger doesn't seem to have real great energy this morning.

He does find the rough and is behind a small tree, where the grass is long and wet.

Tiger decides to hit 3-wood from the trouble and actually knocks it on the green - hitting about 50 yards short and having the ball run onto the putting surface - and has a great look at a 50-foot eagle.

Tiger raises his putter as his eagle putt gets near the hole, but it rims out hard and leaves about three feet for birdie.

He makes the short birdie putt to move into the red.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 3 holes)

• • •

No. 11: Par 4, 438 yards

Tiger takes a 3-wood on the par 4 playing into the sun. He stretches his back again before the tee shot, so he is still feeling it. But finds another fairway and can attack the green with his second shot.

It is a daunting second shot with water fronting the left side. Tiger is well past Els - about 40 yards - despite both taking 3-wood off the tee.

After a long wait, Tiger plays his approach out to the right and spins it a little down the slope and has about 25 feet for birdie.

With a quick putt down the slope toward the water, Tiger lags to about two feet and makes another par.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 2 holes)

• • •

No. 10: Par 4, 400 yards

Tiger begins his day on the back nine, where he is dressed in all black with white shoes. The temperatures at Bay Hill are very comfortable, with only a slight breeze. You can expect plenty of low scores today.

Tiger takes driver off the tee and cuts off a big part of the dogleg, putting it in the middle of the fairway and leaving himself about 100 yards to the pin. Before hitting his drive, Tiger did stretches for both his Achilles and back, obviously trying to make himself as loose as possible.

After outdriving Mahan by about 30 yards, Tiger hits a disappointing wedge shot with his approach, leaving it about 40 feet short. His birdie putt comes up about a foot short and taps in for an opening par.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 1 hole)

• • •

Tiger says he is fine after scare

Hate To Be Rude: Tiger Woods gets a scare on Wednesday when he felt a twinge in his back, but says he is healthy and is showing a more cautious nature in dealing with injuries. Story.

• • •

Tiger needs to work on his short game

Jeff Rude: Tiger Woods seems to be healthy. And his ball-striking is impressive. It will be the work he does on the greens that will allow him to win over the next few weeks. Story.

• • •

Book review: Brad Klein weighs in on Hank Haney's book on Tiger Woods

In medicine, there’s a legally established principle of confidentially that survives the therapeutic relationship. Not so on the driving range, as Tiger Woods now knows thanks to Hank Haney's upcoming book "The Big Miss." Story.

• • •

Tiger has good and bad moments at Tavistock Cup

Tiger Woods seems to be healthy, but his game struggled a bit on Tuesday on Day 2 at the Tavistock Cup, settling for an even-par round during singles action. Round 2 recap

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