PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Here at the Honda Classic for the first time in nearly two decades, Tiger Woods received plenty of support Thursday from his new hometown fans.
Outside the ropes, a middle-aged man with a salt-and-pepper beard sported a red “Team Tiger” T-shirt. It listed Tiger’s PGA Tour wins (71), major titles (14), and featured the caption ENOUGH SAID. His son, no older than 10, had “TW” shaved into the back of his head. A few young women held signs that read, “Tiger, we love you no matter what!” Several fans shouted, “Thanks for coming, Tiger!”
But the most boisterous cheers, the ones reflective of his play, will have to wait another day, or longer. Woods failed to capitalize on a day when the course played soft (they played under lift, clean and place conditions on Thursday) and settled for a 1-over 71, leaving him seven shots off the pace set by this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III.
Unlike last week, when he was ousted in the second round of the WGC-Match Play Championship, putting wasn’t Tiger’s primary concern. Afterward, he said that he felt comfortable with “his lines,” that the grain grabbed a few putts, that the greens looked faster than they actually were. Being fooled by a few of the subtle breaks wasn’t unexpected either; he hasn’t played this course in competition in 22 years.
Though Tiger needed 34 putts to get around PGA National’s Champion Course on Thursday, that statistic was more a product of his proximity to the hole, not numerous opportunities missed. Nonetheless, after speaking with reporters, Woods retreated to the practice putting green for extra work with caddie Joe LaCava and swing coach Sean Foley.
“I just didn’t get a lot out of my round,” Woods said. “I played a lot better, putted a lot better; I just didn’t score.”
Tiger outplayed, though he didn’t outscore, one of his fellow playing competitors, World No. 3 Lee Westwood (70). Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways, and two of the misses landed in the first cut. But when he failed to hit greens — like he did on Nos. 7, 8 and 15 — he made momentum-stalling bogeys, the gnarly rough making it difficult to gauge the distance. He played the infamous Bear Trap in 1 over par, bogeying the par-3 15th after he misjudged the wind.
“A round that should have been 2 or 3 under par quickly turned into 1 over,” Woods said.
– Ryan Lavner
• • •
Tiger’s 18th hole: Par 5, 556 yards
Playing his final hole of the day, Tiger pounds a driver into the fairway. If he’s missed a fairway today, it hasn’t been by much. He is looking very comfortable off the tee.
With about 230 yards over the water left, Tiger shows guts by going for it in two. With the wind helping, Tiger flies the green with an iron and lands in the rough, leaving him a tricky chip back to the hole.
Tiger has to play his third with a wide stance and chips it to about 12 feet. The putt stays left and he picks up a two-putt par. He finishes the day at T-68 and seven shots behind Davis Love III.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 18 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 17th hole: Par 3, 190 yards
After watching Westwood yank his tee shot badly at the daunting par 3, Tiger calmly puts his tee ball on the green, about 30 feet to the left of the pin.
Tiger gives his birdie putt a run, but it slides by on the left and he settles for another two-putt par. He’ll move to the only par 5 on the back nine in hopes of getting back to even. He is currently T-67 and seven back of the lead.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 17 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 16th hole: Par 4, 434 yards
Tiger takes iron off the tee on the severe dogleg right, and plays a low, penetrating ball flight. For the most part, Tiger has been keeping it in play off the tee.
Tiger looks confused after his approach shot, even though he hit the green, he left it about 30 feet to the right and under the hole. It has been a few holes since Tiger hit a solid iron shot, as the wind seems to be wreaking havoc on distance control.
Tiger’s birdie putt has eyes for the hole, but comes up short and Tiger taps in for another par. Tiger hasn’t made a putt over 10 feet since No. 1.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 16 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 15th hole: Par 3, 179 yards
The group enters the first leg of the Bear Trap, the watery 15th hole. After Westwood stuffs it to about six feet, Tiger is fooled by the wind and sails off the back of the green and into the rough.
With a gnarly lie in the rough and chipping back toward the water, Tiger chops it out to about 15 feet, which he’ll need to save par.
He misses it to the left and picks up his fourth bogey of the day.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 15 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 14th hole: Par 4, 465 yards
After some deliberation on the tee, Tiger takes 3-wood and doesn’t like it, at least initially. But, it finds its way onto the left side of the fairway, about 190 yards away from the flag.
Tiger looks disgusted after hitting his second shot, as he hits the green, but is about 40 feet right of the pin.
Tiger hits a nice lag putt and settles for a two-putt par.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 14 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 13th hole: Par 4, 388 yards
With fairway wood in hand, Tiger pokes his ball up the left-hand side and into the first cut of rough, but should have a nice angle at the hole. Tiger wasn’t happy with the shot, continuing to look at its flight as he bent down to pick up his tee.
From 101 yards, he puts his approach shot to within 15 feet with a smooth wedge shot.
Another vicious lipout for Tiger, as his birdie putt does a complete horseshoe and he settles for a routine par.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 13 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 12th hole: Par 4, 427 yards
Tiger pulls driver and pounds it down the left side, where he’ll have a perfect angle to attack the right hole location.
With the wind swirling, Tiger plays a low-driving shot that comes up about 45 feet short, but is on the green.
Tiger gives his birdie putt a run, as the ball runs past the left edge by about five feet. He misses the comebacker and picks up his third bogey of the day.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 12 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 11th hole: Par 4, 450 yards
Flanked by water on both sides of the fairway, Tiger grabs iron and send a bullet down the left side, in the ideal position to attack the flag.
Having to be precise with his second shot – water in the front and to the right of the green – Tiger puts it safely on the green, about 40 feet from the cup.
Tiger has to be careful with his first put and watches it come up short and to the right, leaving about four feet for par. He makes it and leaves the dangerous par 4 with a par.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 11 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s 10th hole: Par 4, 508 yards
Tiger pulls driver for the third time on Thursday, and blocks his drive to the right, but finds the fairway. The drive was 302 yards, the longest of the day on the 10th hole.
From 184 yards, Tiger hits a majestic mid-iron and sticks it to two feet.
He makes his second straight birdie, recovering from back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7. Tiger looks focused, barely even cracking a smile after making the putt.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 10 holes)
• • •
McIlroy, Bradley show off young stardom
The budding friendship between Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy, seen when the two played together in Thursday’s round of the Honda Classic, was overshadowed by their skill, as McIlroy shot 66 and Bradley 67.
• • •
Tiger’s ninth hole: Par 4, 421 yards
Another 3-wood off the tee for Tiger, and this one finds the fairway too. Only two missed fairways on the front none – both of which came with driver in hand.
Tiger sticks his aggressive approach shot to within 10 feet for a chance to get back to even.
He makes the birdie putt to make the turn at even-par 35. Tiger opened and closed the front-nine with a birdie.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 9 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s eighth hole: Par 4, 427 yards
With a creek bisecting the middle of the 8th fairway, Tiger pulls 3-wood and finds the left side of the fairway, with about 155 yards left to the flag.
The wind picks up right as Tiger hits his second shot, but manages to hit the green and will have about 35 feet for birdie.
Tiger two-putts to stop his bogey run, picking up fifth par of the day.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 8 holes)
• Elsewhere on the course: Some surprising names at the bottom of the scoreboard, with Arjun Atwal firing a 10-over 80, Tommy Gainey a 6-over 76 and Kyle Stanley a 5-over 75.
• • •
Tiger’s seventh hole: Par 3, 226 yards
There are dark clouds looming over PGA National and the wind is freshening as Tiger plays his second par 3 of the day. He lands just off the green on the left and will have a solid look at birdie to get back into red numbers.
He gets a bit too much grass on his delicate chip shot and scoops it up, leaving it well short of the hole. He takes a swipe at the grass in disgust.
From about 11 feet, Tiger watches his par putt slide by and he picks up his second-straight bogey. He is seven shots off the pace.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 7 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s sixth hole: Par 4, 479 yards
A strong par 4, Tiger watches Westwood drive his ball into the water and decides to take his drive down the right side of the fairway and will have a good angle to attack the pin, but is in the rough.
Tiger fans of all sorts are on the course today. One man with a white Nike hat is wearing a red T-shirt that reads “Tiger Woods: 71 PGA wins, 14 major wins, ENOUGH SAID.” His son has a “TW” shaved into his head.
From the rough, Tiger tugs it left and over the green and lands in between some palm trees.
Tiger pitches out and onto the green, but leaves himself 34 feet for par.
Tiger’s par putt comes up about four feet short and picks up his first bogey of the day.
This group needs some type of spark, as no player has been particularly sharp, with Westwood picking up a double-bogey on No. 6.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 6 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s fifth hole: Par 3, 217 yards
A water hole and playing into the wind, Tiger flies it over the flag and to about 30 feet beyond the hole, but finding his fifth green in regulation to start the round.
Tiger leaves the birdie putt two feet short and settles for his fourth-straight par.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 5 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s fourth hole: Par 4, 376 yards
Tiger uses iron off the tee – his third time in four holes Thursday – and he splits the fairway at the short par 4.
With a nasty hole location – right on the other side of a bunker – Tiger judges his second shot perfectly and will have a good look at birdie.
Tiger doesn’t read the birdie attempt very well, missing the 20-footer to the right and settles for a third-straight par.
Lee Westwood is also at 1 under, while Carballo is 2 over.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 4 holes)
• Elsewhere on the course: Davis Love III is in the clubhouse at 6 under, two shots ahead of four others, including Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.
• • •
Tiger’s third hole: Par 5, 538 yards
Tiger takes the big stick out at No. 3, rehearsing his cut swings before hooking it left into the wind. He’ll have to scramble at his first par 5 of the day.
Tiger has to lay up after finding the long rough and then plays his third shot to inside 15 feet with a nice 3/4 shot.
He misses the putt and picks up another par.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 3 holes)
• • •
Tiger’s second hole: Par 4, 464 yards
With water lining the left side of the hole, Tiger takes another long iron off the tee, but overcooks it a bit, but finds the edge of the fairway.
Walking down the fairway at No. 2, Tiger chats it up with Westwood’s caddie, Billy Foster. The two of them have worked together from time-to-time. The gallery following the group is currently four-deep and growing larger by the moment.
Tiger finds the green with his approach, with about 20 feet for birdie. He leaves the putt about six inches short and picks up a two-putt par for a stress-free start.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 2 holes)
• Elsewhere on the course: Davis Love III and Dicky Pride have both moved to 5 under, holding a one-shot lead over four players, including Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.
• • •
Tiger’s first hole: Par 4, 365 yards
Tiger takes long iron off the first tee and finds the fairway. It’s steamy and around 85 degrees in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. and the wind is moving around about 15 mph.
After heavy rain on Wednesday night, they are playing lift, clean and place in the fairway. Tiger, from about 145 yards, puts his approach to about 20 feet for birdie.
Tiger slams it into the back of the cup to start the day on the right foot – with a birdie.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 1 hole)
• • •
12:28 p.m. EST
Rory McIlroy finished his round with a par at No. 9 to card a 4-under 66 to take the clubhouse lead. He is tied with three others – including Davis Love III – at the top of the leaderboard.
• • •
12:20 p.m. EST
Rory McIlroy picked up a bogey on No. 8 to fall back to 4 under, joining Justin Rose, Davis Love III and Dicky Pride atop the leaderboard.
• • •
McIlroy takes the lead
11:45 a.m. EST
Rory McIlroy is bogey-free through 16 holes and picked up another birdie at No. 7 (he started on the back nine) to take a one-shot lead over Davis Love III.
• • •
McIlroy, Love III start fast
11:15 a.m. EST
Starting on the back nine, Rory McIlroy is tied for the early lead at the Honda Classic, picking up birdies on Nos. 14, 17 and 18 and then another at No. 2 to move to 4 under, tied with Davis Love III.
Davis Love III got to 4 under that included a hole-in-one at the par-3 5th hole.
• • •
Tiger has exchange with reporter
Tiger has plenty of built-in distractions and playing at the Honda has brought a new one, with excepts of former swing coach Hank Haney’s book being revealed. The book, “The Big Miss,” claims that Tiger was intent on becoming a Navy SEAL at the height of his golf career. On Wednesday, Tiger bristled over a question from Golfweek’s Alex Miceli and created a stir in the golf world.
• • •
Nicklaus, Norman weigh in on Tiger
Will Tiger ever win again? That was a preposterous question only a few years ago. But, on the eve of the Honda Classic, both Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman addressed the question that everyone seems to be asking.
• • •
McIlroy to No. 1?
Fantasy Tip Sheet: Rory McIlroy had the World No. 1 ranking in his grasp and let it slip last week at Match Play. At least one of our panelists thinks he’ll make an immediate rebound in Florida.
• • •
First round tee times
Take a look at when your favorite player tees off today at PGA National.