Tiger Tracker: Woods starts with 72 at Doral

Tiger Woods watches a shot on the third hole during first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral.

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DORAL, Fla. -- Just four days removed from his most electric golf in months, if not years, Tiger Woods failed to stir the masses again Thursday during a windswept opening round at Doral. A sloppy bogey on the final hole soured what had been an unpredictable day of incredible shots and missed opportunities.

On the closing stretch on the Blue Monster, Woods missed four consecutive putts inside 15 feet, turning what had been a gritty round into an even-par 72 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. That left him in a tie for 25th, six shots back of leaders Adam Scott and Jason Dufner.

Said Woods, who is searching for his first official PGA Tour victory since September 2009: “I played some really solid golf and just couldn’t quite make enough birdies.”

On his opening hole Thursday, Woods hammered a drive down the middle, hit a pitching wedge from 172 yards and tapped in for an eagle-3. Such an explosive start seemingly was the extension of his last competitive round, Sunday at the Honda Classic, where Woods shot 62, his lowest final-round score ever, and vaulted into contention. He finished second to newly minted World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, but seemed to supply the clearest sign yet that his revamped swing once again was ready for prime time.

But under overcast skies Thursday, and battling a steady, 15-25 mph wind -- conditions even more harsh than what he faced early Sunday at PGA National -- Woods hit half the fairways and only 11 of 18 greens. Those statistics certainly aren’t impressive, but Woods, for the most part, was able to control the trajectory of his iron shots. Just like he did in Australia, in Palm Beach Gardens and now here, in Miami.

Why is that? Why does Woods seem to be a much better wind player now under Sean Foley? Tiger says it’s the way he’s compressing the ball, that his shots go straighter and for a longer period of time.

His most significant problem on Thursday, however, was his proximity to the hole -- three-putting from 80 and 51 feet and averaging about 42 feet on approach shots -- and his inability to convert makeable birdie attempts. He sank only one putt longer than 8 feet, a 15-footer for birdie on the par-5 12th, though he played the four par 5s in 4-under par.

“It was just a difficult day,” said Woods, who mixed a pair of birdies with four bogeys and an eagle. “The wind was blowing putts around, and it made for a very challenging round.”

The new Tour leader in total driving (distance and accuracy ranks), Woods rose to that top spot on the strength of his performance last week at the par-70 PGA National, where he hit driver no more than five times per round and relied instead on a low, penetrating long iron off the tee. He needed to pull the big stick far more often Thursday at Doral, and he kept the ball in play. (Many of his missed fairways were the result of his ball barely trickling into the first cut.) His biggest miss, a block way right of the gallery on 18, led to a bogey. “It’s just a really tough tee shot,” he said.

Woods, a three-time winner at Doral and six-time champion at this event, was grouped with defending champion Nick Watney (71) and Sergio Garcia on Thursday. The Spaniard turned in 5 under, just one off the lead, but played the last six holes in 8-over par to shoot 75.

“It just kind of snowballed,” Garcia said.

This group will go off No. 10 at 11:40 a.m. EDT Friday.

-- Ryan Lavner

• • •

Hole No. 18, Par 4, 467 yards

There have been plenty of balls in the water at No. 18 today, but Tiger is nowhere near the lake to the left of the fairway. Unfortunately, he's nowhere near the fairway, either.

Woods' tee shot sails well right of the fairway, really his first wayward drive of the day, leaving 216 yards into the wind to the pin. He'll have to negotiate some palm trees to hit the green.

Woods' second shot – a low, stinging punch-like shot – stops up short of the green, but it does carry the water, which was objective No. 1.

Woods hits a poor chip-and-run shot that leaves him with 15-footer for par to shoot 71.

Putting straight uphill, Woods leaves his par attempt well short and taps in for bogey. It was a wild day of great shots and missed opportunities for Tiger, who will have a six-shot deficit after Round 1.

ROUND 1: Even-par 72

• • •

Hole No. 17, Par 4, 419 yards

Woods hits the right side of the fairway at No. 17, leaving 143 yards to the pin.

Tiger continues to wail away on the driver and, better yet, hit them straight. He outdrove Nick Watney, a fairly-long hitter in his own right, by 20 yards at the 17th.

Tiger hits a solid approach to the center of the green, leaving a 15-foot birdie attempt. He hits a good putt, but leaves it short, possibly due to the water on the green after a very temporary rain squall that blew through.

Tiger on the day: 1 under

• • •

Hole No. 16, Par 4, 372 yards

Tiger takes out driver, trying to take a shot at the green but cutting over the dogleg. He comes up about 50 yards short of the green and in the intermediate cut of rough.

Tiger hits a solid second shot, with the ball coming to rest about 12 feet under the hole.

Woods runs the birdie putt four and a half feet past the hole and makes his par putt. It's back-to-back missed opportunities for Tiger, who can't get up-and-down from 50 yards.

Tiger on the day: 1 under

• • •

Hole No. 15, Par 3, 175 yards

Tiger attacks the front pin location with a 9-iron and will have about six feet for birdie after his best par-3 tee ball of the day.

Tiger gives his birdie putt a firm tap and it runs past the hole by about three feet. He makes the comebacker for another par.

Tiger laughs over his misread on the birdie putt, but he won't be laughing about the fact that he has made only one putt over eight feet all day.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 15 holes)

• • •

Hole No. 14, Par 4, 460 yards

With the wind behind him now, Tiger takes long iron off the tee and slashes it down the middle of the fairway.

Tiger has been pretty chatty today with Watney, who ousted Woods two weeks ago at Match Play. Not so much with Garcia, with the two having a long history.

With 163 yards left, Tiger lands on the green, about 18 feet beyond the hole.

Tiger burns the left edge, but has to settle for a two-putt par.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 14 holes)

• • •

Hole No. 13, Par 3, 245 yards

Playing into the wind, Tiger tugs his tee ball left and will have lots of work to do to save par. Definitely his worst shot of the day.

After getting a free drop from the greenside cables to keep fans back, Tiger follows with a nice pitch shot to about seven feet, and he drains the putt to save par. The par 3s have caused Tiger trouble, so this is a nice save for him.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 13 holes)

• • •

Hole No. 12, Par 5, 603 yards

Tiger takes driver at the longest hole on the course, and uses body language to try and get it to move a bit right, but it stays a bit left and settles in the rough, just off the fairway.

Tiger overcooks his second shot to the green, finding the rough right on the lip of a fairway bunker.

With 105 yards left to the pin, Tiger hits the front of the green and it trickles to about 15 feet under the hole.

He drains the putt to pick up an unlikely birdie at the par 5. He is now 4 under on the day on the par 5s.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 12 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Adam Scott is in the clubhouse at 6 under, currently tied with Steve Stricker atop the leaderboard. Sergio Garcia has moved back to 5 under with a birdie at No. 12, and Charl Schwartzel and Aaron Baddeley are in a group two shots back at 4 under. Meanwhile, Lee Westwood (3 over) and Rory McIlroy (2 over) are struggling.

• • •

Hole No. 11, Par 4, 402 yards

Tiger takes another long iron off the tee, playing for position with a bunker in the middle of the split fairway, and the ball never gets more than 30 feet off the ground, taking the wind out of the equation.

From 161 yards, Tiger plays a low cut and it goes well past the hole again, leaving himself more than 65 feet for birdie. Tiger isn't happy with that second shot, having to play that low cut because the wind was blowing into them.

Tiger leaves himself plenty of work to do for par, sending his birdie putt about six feet left of the pin. Distance control on the greens has been a problem for Tiger on Thursday.

He rattles this one home to save par to avoid his third three-putt of the day.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 11 holes)

• • •

Hole No. 10, Par 5, 551 yards

After a pretty scratchy front side - highlighted by a couple of wonderful shots and two bad three-putts - Tiger takes long iron off the tee and flings his club in disgust. The rough saves Tiger from a water ball and he'll be hitting from the long stuff.

Tiger has a horrible lie in the rough and has to lay up at the par 5, sending it to about 160 yards away from the pin. With his third, Tiger lofts it high in the air and lands about 12 feet beyond the hole, where he'll have another birdie attempt.

Tiger two-putts for a par, as the putt doesn't break left like he thought it would.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 10 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Steve Stricker has moved into a tie with Adam Scott at 6 under.

• • •

Hole No. 9, Par 3, 169 yards

Tiger plays 7-iron into the green and goes well past the hole and will have more than 70 feet on his birdie putt.

Tiger's birdie putt is delicate and he leaves it about 12 feet short of the hole. He misses the par putt to the right and picks up his third bogey of the day, two of them on tough par 3s.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 9 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Sergio Garcia will make the turn at 5 under after a birdie at No. 9. He is one shot behind Adam Scott, who picked up his first bogey of the day.

• • •

Hole No. 8, Par 5, 560 yards

Tiger takes driver off the tee and sends it down the left side of the fairway, about 10 yards from a palm tree that lines the fairway. Not many players are going for this green in two, with the wind blowing directly into their faces.

Tiger decides to move the gallery left and attempt a bold shot through the palms. He is the first player to go after the green in two and clears the water on the left, and running into a greenside bunker.

Normal people can't even visualize that line. We don't know what was more daring: that shot, the cut aroudn three palm tree over water, or the fans that stood near.

Tiger's bunker shot is played nicely, with the ball running past the hole by eight feet to set up a birdie putt.

He drains the putt to move back into red numbers. He is 3 under on the day on Doral's par 5s.

Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 8 holes)

• Elsewhere on the course: Greg Chalmers and Sergio Garcia have both moved to 4 under.

• • •

Hole No. 7, Par 4, 454 yards

Tiger pulls driver again and pounds down the left side of the fairway, the only one of the three in his group to hit the short stuff.

The hole is playing downhill and Tiger will need to control any spin on his second shot. With only 106 yards left to the pin, Tiger carries it deep and it doesn't spin back, leaving a long birdie attempt.

He two-putts for a disappointing par, especially with 106 yards left on his second shot. Players are having a hard time judging distances with the wind whipping around.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 7 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Steve Stricker is now 5 under, two shots behind Adam Scott.

• • •

Hole No. 6, Par 4, 442 yards

Tiger pummels a 301-yard drive onto the right side of the fairway and has less than 150 yards left for his approach shot. He should be able to attack this flag in the back left.

During his second shot, the wind was just ripping into him. Tiger flights the ball well and will have a birdie putt from behind the hole. The 25 mph wind is testing his revamped swing.

He finds the right line with the birdie putt, but comes up short and settles for a par to stop the bleeding a bit.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 6 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Jason Dufner, Charles Howell III, Greg Chalmers, Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn have all moved to 3 under, while Steve Stricker is now 4 under. Adam Scott is the leader at 7 under.

• • •

Hole No. 5, Par 4, 394 yards

Tiger pulls a 3-wood off the tee, needing to steady himself after a couple of loose shots over the past couple of holes. He puts it into the middle of the fairway.

His approach shot fades to the right and settles on the green, but more than 50 feet from the pin.

A poor birdie putt sends the ball nearly 15 feet past the hole, which he'll have to save par. He misses and picks up a three-putt bogey. A gust of wind caused Tiger to back off his initial par putt, and missed it on the high side on the reset.

Tiger on the day: Even (thru 5 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Adam Scott has moved to 6 under, now three shots ahead of only Steve Stricker. Meanwhile, one of the hottest players over the past two weeks, Lee Westwood, is in dead last at 4 over.

• • •

Hole No. 4, Par 3, 236 yards

The fourth hole is brutal, with water to the right and bunkers to the left, and it looks amazingly long off the tee.

After watching Watney and Garcia play nice shots into the green, Tiger pulls his tee shot into a greenside bunker and will face a very difficult up-and-down.

He plays a really high shot out of the bunker and lands it behind the hole and will have four feet to save par. His putt lips out on the left and he picks up a bogey to drop three shots behind leader Adam Scott.

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

• • •

Hole No. 3, Par 4, 438 yards

Tiger hits his first poor shot of the day, sending a driver left and into a fairway bunker. It was a bad double cross, as he was trying to hit a fade around the pond to the right, but hits a draw toward the bunker instead.

Tiger's second shot is quite awkward. From a downhill, sidehill lie in the bunker, he has both a strong wind in his face and water to the right to keep in mind. He gets a face full of sand at impact and comes up just short of the green and will need to get up-and-down for par.

Bogey-free over his past 25 holes (back to the third round of the Honda Classic), Tiger plays a nice chip to about two feet under the hole. He drains that putt and gets up-and-down with ease.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 3 holes)

Elsewhere on the course: Adam Scott is in the lead at 4 under after eight holes (he started on the back nine).

• • •

Hole No. 2, Par 4, 418 yards

Tiger busts another driver down the left side of the fairway, leaving it only a couple of paces off the fairway and into the first cut off rough. That is key for Tiger now, as his misses are no longer big, they are manageable.

He launches his approach shot high and comes up about 15 feet short of the pin for a look at birdie.

Tiger pushes his birdie putt to the right and taps in for par, one shot back of Bubba Watson and Adam Scott. The rain is starting to fall at Doral, which will slow the greens down a bit.

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

• • •

Hole No. 1, Par 5, 529 yards

With very overcast skies overhead and the winds blowing about 15-20 mph, the scoring conditions will be tough.

Tiger opens the round with a driver off the first tee - he'll need to play more drivers at Doral than last week at PGA National - and stripes it down the middle. His consistency off the tee will be critical this week.

It was enormous drive, at least 50 yards ahead of Watney and Garcia and Tiger will have an easy go at the green in two.

He hits his second shot to less than two feet for an early eagle putt. He slaps hands with caddie Joe LaCava after the second shot and seems to be feeling it already.

He drains the putt and moves into the lead at 2 under.

Tiger on the day: 2 under (thru 1 hole)

• • •

A new week for Tiger

Sure Tiger Woods' final-round 62 at last week's was brilliant, but the thing is, it happened last week. It was something Woods was quick to point out Wednesday at Doral. Story.

• • •

Consistency at the top

Add Rory McIlroy to the world's best, and the game's upper rung suddenly gets a lot more interesting. With the Masters drawing near, Jeff Rude explains why that's good for the game. Story.

• • •

Big task ahead

Donald Trump will signal a start to the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a press conference to discuss his purchase of the host venue this week, Doral Golf Resort & Spa. Gil Hanse, chosen course designer of the 2016 Rio Olympics course, will revamp the Blue Monster course at Doral. Story.

• • •

Notes: Casey back on the course

Paul Casey already has missed five tournaments this year after dislocating his right shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays. It’s a bad time for an injury, especially in a Ryder Cup year, though Casey has a good reason to feel optimistic. Story.

• • •

Notes: Oosthuizen will play, but not pain-free

Two days after withdrawing from the final round of the Honda Classic, Louis Oosthuizen was back at work at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster, determined to give it a go at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Story.

• • •

Natural fit

The decision to hire Gil Hanse to design the 2016 Olympics golf course represents a powerful endorsement of a post-modern, links-inspired orientation to golf at the highest level of international competition. Story.

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