How it happened: Tiger fires 71, Z. Johnson leads
Tiger Woods returned to action for the first time in nearly a month Thursday at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
And while it wasn't the sharpest round for the tournament host, Woods sits in solo fifth after an opening-round 1-under 71. He is four shots back of leader Zach Johnson, who is 5 under, a shot clear of second-place Matt Kuchar.
Woods told the Golf Channel after his round that the toughest part about coming back after the layoff was getting his feel back. He made just two birdies and missed a couple of short putts inside of 3 feet – one for par at No. 1 and another for birdie at No. 18.
But while he struggled on the greens – most of the field did, as well – Woods hit it well off the tee, missing only two fairways. He also got up-and-down to save par on numerous occasions.
"I made a few mistakes today and also hit a couple of good shots today, and left some of them in interesting spots; that can happen out here," Woods said. "Shot about the score (I thought I would shoot), maybe could've gotten one or two (shots more) out of it.
We followed the action live all day long! Here is a shot-by-shot look at Tiger's round, as well as highlights from other players:
• • •
Hole No. 18: Par 4, 444 yards
Final hole here for Woods, who has overcome an opening three-putt bogey to enter No. 18 in solo fifth at 1 under.
• Off the tee: Tiger chooses the 3-wood and sends his tee ball down the fairway.
• Approach shot: Best approach of the round for Woods, who sticks his second shot to within 5 feet. Kuchar then follows with an approach to about 2 feet.
• On the green: Tiger has about 3 feet left for birdie, but his putt violently lips out. A very tough and disappointing par to close the round for Woods.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 18 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Kuchar birdies the 18th to wrap up a 4 under 68. He's in solo second at the moment, one shot back of leader Zach Johnson.
• • •
Hole No. 17: Par 3, 166 yards
Again, Tiger Woods gets up and down to save par. Unfortunately, he can't get the birdie putts to fall, although at 1 under he is one of just five players under par at the moment.
• Off the tee: Tiger finds the green as his tee ball lands about 20 feet away from the hole.
• On the green: Good speed, but Tiger misses a little left. Another par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 17 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Bubba Watson bogeys the 16th to drop back to 3 under, and Matt Kuchar joins him there shortly after with his bogey at the 17th.
• • •
Hole No. 16: Par 5, 567 yards
Tiger's GIR on the last hole was his first on a par 3 today. He now moves on to the final par 5 of the day.
• Off the tee: Tiger misses the fairway left.
• Second and third shots: Tiger's second shot ends up in the right rough and just misses the creek. He doesn't have a line at the flag, and his third shot hits the left part of the green and rolls off the back.
• Around the green: Nice chip here from Woods, and he'll have 4 feet left for par.
• On the green: And after a rough start to the hole, Tiger gets out of here with par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 16 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: A bogey at the 18th gives Zach Johnson an opening-round 5-under 67. He leads Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson by one shot.
• • •
Hole No. 15: Par 3, 189 yards
Tiger missed the green at his first three par 3s today. Now, he'll get the fourth of five par 3s here at Sherwood.
• Off the tee: Tiger snaps his par-3 skid as he finds the green about 20 feet from the hole.
• On the green: Tiger leaves his birdie putt a little short and left, and he ends up with par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 15 holes
• • •
Hole No. 14: Par 4, 455 yards
Tiger can't get up-and-down at No. 13, but luckily it was a par 5 and he managed to walk away from the hole with par. Tiger quietly is tied for fifth as he steps up to the tee box at No. 14.
• Off the tee: With 3-wood, Tiger finds the short grass.
• Approach shot: Tiger finds the green, but he'll have a lengthy birdie putt coming up.
• On the green: From long distance, Tiger two-putts to save par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 14 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Zach Johnson's seventh birdie of the day comes at No. 16, and it moves him to 6 under. . . . Bubba Watson birdies the par-5 13th to move to 4 under.
• • •
Hole No. 13: Par 5, 568 yards
The fourth of five par 5s on this golf course is up next for Tiger, who continues to get up-and-down from seemingly everywhere today.
• Off the tee: Tiger goes with fairway wood off the tee and finds the right side of the fairway.
• Second and third shots: Another fairway wood with his second shot, and Tiger sends this one a little long, finding the back rough. His third still leaves him with a long birdie putt. He had to respect the slope of the green on that one and left it well short.
• On the green: This birdie putt is a very quick one, and Tiger cozies the 30-footer close and cleans up for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 13 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Matt Kuchar birdies the 13th to move to 4 under, one shot back of leader Zach Johnson. . . . Graeme McDowell just wrapped up an even-par 72 while Rory McIlroy carded a first-round 73.
• • •
Hole No. 12: Par 3, 186 yards
Tiger is finally into red numbers. Now, he'll try to hit the green off the tee at a par 3 for the first time today.
• Off the tee: With 6-iron, Tiger misses the green and finds a greenside bunker.
• Around the green: From the sand, Tiger gives himself another good chance to save par.
• On the green: Tiger makes the short putt for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 12 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: A birdie at the 14th moves Zach Johnson to 5 under. He leads by two shots again after his fourth birdie in five holes.
• • •
Hole No. 11: Par 5, 517 yards
Only one birdie, and just one bogey, for Tiger through 10 holes, and he trails leader Zach Johnson by two shots.
• Off the tee: Tiger goes with driver and pounds it down the middle.
• Second and third shots: After Kuchar hits his second shot to within a foot, Tiger's second hits the center of the green and just rolls into the back rough. Tiger's chip then ends up about 3 feet away.
• On the green: Tiger gets his second birdie of the day.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 11 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: After finding the water off the tee at the par-3 15th, Rory McIlroy drains a long bogey putt. He drops to 1 over, but it could've been worse. . . . Matt Kuchar taps in his eagle at No. 11, and at 3 under, he's a shot back of leader Zach Johnson.
• • •
Hole No. 10: Par 4, 359 yards
Besides the bogey at No. 1, Tiger hasn't had any other blemishes on his scorecard so far, and that is in large part due to his ability to find fairways – he hasn't missed one – and get up and down to save par.
• Off the tee: Tiger misses his first fairway of the day as he pulls his driver a little left.
• Approach shot: From an awkward stance, Tiger finds the green pin-high, and he'll have about 20 feet left for birdie.
• On the green: Tiger misses the birdie putt, but makes the 2-footer for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 10 holes
• • •
Hole No. 9: Par 4, 422 yards
Tiger has missed three greens so far today, two of them being on par 3s.
• Off the tee: Tiger goes iron off the tee and finds another fairway.
• Approach shot: Tiger misses a third straight green in regulation as he finds the sand.
• Around the green: From the greenside bunker, Tiger blasts out to inches.
• On the green: Tap-in par for Woods.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 9 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Zach Johnson moves to 3 under after a birdie at the 11th, and he leads by two shots.
• • •
Hole No. 8: Par 3, 228 yards
Good up-and-down at the last hole for Woods, who is just one shot off the lead despite not getting anything going on these difficult greens.
• Off the tee: Tiger misses the green right and he'll have a tough up-and-down coming up.
• Around the green: From the top of a hill, Tiger chips down onto the green and gets it to stop about 5 feet short.
• On the green: Tiger completes the difficult up-and-down to save par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 8 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: A birdie at No. 10 moves Zach Johnson back to 2 under.
• • •
Hole No. 7: Par 4, 446 yards
Tiger has been on fire off the tee today, which has made up a little for his struggles on the green. Although to Tiger's defense, he's not the only player struggling with these quick greens at Sherwood.
• Off the tee: Driver. Fairway. Woods even avoided the rocks in the middle of the fairway on this hole.
• Approach shot: After Kuchar misses the green with his approach, Tiger also can't find the putting surface as his approach ends up off the back of the green. That means that of the 12 players to have played approach shots at No. 7, just two have found the green in regulation.
• Around the green: Tiger opts to putt this one up and onto the green, and he leaves it just a few feet short.
• On the green: Tiger gets up and down for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 7 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Bubba Watson bogeys No. 6 after missing a short par putt, Graeme McDowell bogeys the 12th and Kuchar can't save par at No. 7. They all drop back to 1 under and we have a six-way tie for the lead at 1 under.
• • •
Hole No. 6: Par 4, 422 yards
Tiger finally gets his first birdie of the round, and he's back to level par, just two shots off of Bill Haas' lead.
• Off the tee: Driver stays in bag here, but Tiger still finds the fairway, this time with fairway wood.
• Approach shot: Tiger goes with 9-iron from about 140 yards out and lands his approach about 15 feet past the hole.
• On the green: Tiger's birdie putt comes to rest just left of the cup, and he taps in for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 6 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Bill Haas doesn't lead outright for long as he misses a 5-footer for par at No. 7. That made it an eight-way tie for the lead at 1 under until Bubba Watson birdied the par-5 fifth hole to move to 2 under.
• • •
Hole No. 5: Par 5, 531 yards
Tiger can't buy a putt right now, but he's still just three off the lead as no one has pulled away from the field yet.
• Off the tee: Tiger's putter isn't firing on all cylinders up to this point, but his driver sure is. Another big drive from Woods.
• Second shot: Big cut here from Tiger, and his ball lands on the green just left of the hole before stopping about 12 feet past. Can you say eagle opportunity?
• On the green: Tiger's eagle putt is a good one, but just misses left. He cleans up for his first birdie of the day.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 5 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: A bogey by Zach Johnson at No. 7 and a bogey by Graeme McDowell at No. 8 leaves Bill Haas in sole possession of the lead at 2 under.
• • •
Hole No. 4: Par 4, 456 yards
Through three holes, Tiger has missed no fairways and just one green, but has six putts, including a three-putt at No. 1.
• Off the tee: Driver here for Woods, who finds the right side of the fairway.
• Approach shot: Tiger finds the green, as the ball ends up about 8 feet right of the cup.
• On the green: Too much speed on the birdie roll for Tiger, who makes the 3-footer coming back for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 over through 4 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Jason Dufner rolls in a birdie at his opening hole and he's 1 under after one hole.
• • •
Hole No. 3: Par 3, 198 yards
Tiger continues his slow start with par at No. 2 after finding the sand with his second shot. Up next is the first par 3 of the round.
• Off the tee: Tiger's tee ball is off the mark and finds the right greenside bunker.
• Around the green: From the sand, Tiger hits his second shot to about a foot or so.
• On the green: It's a tap-in par for Woods.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 over through 3 holes
• • •
Hole No. 2: Par 5, 531 yards
That was about as bad as a bogey start gets. Now, Tiger has a par 5 to try and get that shot back.
• Off the tee: Tiger pulls driver out for the first time and pounds it down the fairway.
• Second and third shots: With long iron, Tiger goes for the green in two shots, but misses in the right greenside bunker. He then blasts out, but will have a long birdie putt.
• On the green: Tiger misses the birdie roll, but gets the tap-in par this time.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 over through 2 holes
• Elsewhere on the course: Steve Stricker began his round with two birdies and after a par at No. 3, Stricker is tied for the lead at 2 under.
• • •
Hole No. 1: Par 4, 342 yards
This will be Tiger's first competitive round since he tied for third at the Turkish Airlines Open about a month ago. On the fashion end, Tiger is going with a white hat, dark sweater, grey pants and white shoes. Looks like he might have a blue polo on under the sweater, as well.
• Off the tee: Tiger goes with 3-wood off the first tee and finds the fairway.
• Approach shot: Tiger wedges onto the green and will have about 10 feet left for birdie.
• On the green: Tiger misses the birdie putt, and then to make matters worse, he misses the tap-in for par. The latter miss was from about 2 feet. Three-putt bogey.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 over through 1 hole
• Elsewhere on the course: Graeme McDowell (2 under) is joined in the lead by Bill Haas and Zach Johnson.
• • •
Weather update No. 1: 12:51 p.m. EST
First-round tee times have been delayed an hour due to frost.
• • •
This weekend would certainly fall into that time of year considered to be “an offseason,” yet what are 39 of the world’s top 50 players doing? They’re playing golf. All 18 players in “Tiger’s Tournament,” officially called the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, Calif., are ranked within the top 30.
He was effusive in his praise, calling it an “amazing 15 years” and suggesting that “if we didn’t have this event, we wouldn’t have a learning center in Orange County (California).” But at the same time, Tiger Woods conceded that moving his end-of-year tournament from West Coast to East Coast made sense, albeit begrudgingly.
Give Jordan Spieth credit for a lot of things, among them his very sharp sense of gratitude. Many might have overlooked how Spieth earned his way into this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, but not the kid from Texas.
Jason Dufner, being an Auburn Tiger, wants to see his alma mater's football team in its conference-championship game. But he's booked in this week's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. So he took to Twitter and reached out to a Tiger with a different set of stripes – tournament benefactor Tiger Woods.
Other recent pro news
As title defenses go, little spotlight will be provided Angel Cabrera, but trying to win a second straight Argentina Open takes on personal meaning for the proud Argentine. The tournament tees off Thursday and is the 14th and final tournament of this year’s LatinoAmerica Series. Mexico’s Jose De Jesus Rodriguez has a slight lead over American Ryan Blaum in the battle to be leading money winner.
Rory McIlroy remained at No. 6 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking following his victory at the Australian Open. It was the first victory of the year for the former World No. 1. Also, Jason Day moved to 10th, bumping Jason Dufner to 11th, after tying for sixth at Royal Sydney. And Hideki Matsuyama improved two spots to 23rd after his fifth Japan Tour victory this season.
Jack Nicklaus said he would have to root for grandson Nick O'Leary, a tight end for Florida State, if he lines up against Nicklaus' alma mater Ohio State with college football's BCS national championship on the line: “I’m an Ohio State guy, but blood is thicker than anything else.”
Fresh off an Australian Open win isn't a bad time for a sponsor to debut a commercial featuring a top golfer. But for a (pardon the American expression) soccer ball? Set to none other than Bing Crosby's "Straight Down the Middle," Rory McIlroy indeed takes to a golf course – introduced with playing partner and Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney.
Tiger Woods is going to wear a customized pair of TW’14 shoes in tournament play next year – and Nike Golf and Woods are leaving the design up to the fans. TW’14 is the first Nike Golf shoe to become available for customization on NIKEiD.