Tiger Woods’ first round of his Valspar Championship career is in the books.
Woods, 42, opened his tournament with a 1-under 70 Thursday at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla. He was inside the top 10, just three shots back, when he finished his round, too.
The 14-time major winner, just five starts into his latest return from an April 2017 spinal fusion, hit seven of 13 fairways, including six of seven on the front nine. He also hit nine greens and needed just 25 putts.
Considering swirling winds made scoring difficult (Woods’ playing competitor Jordan Spieth shot 5-over 76), Woods’ first effort at the Valspar was solid.
“It was really brutal out there,” Woods said. “We as a group got fooled a lot today. Into the wind it just felt like you hit walls.”
Woods began his day with an impressive flop shot at the par-5 first that set up a tap-in birdie.
“It came out perfect,” Woods. “… Can’t believe it almost went in.”
He gave a shot back at the tough par-3 fourth, hitting his tee ball way over the green and into the pine straw.
He then sank a 13-footer for birdie at the par-3 eighth. And despite a bogey at the par-4 ninth after he failed to get up and down out of a bunker, Woods started his back nine with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11.
He gave two shots back with bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13, but he responded by turning in an impressive showing at the Snake Pit.
Woods turned in an all-world par save at the par-4 16th. He hit his tee ball left and into the trees, and then had to punch out short of the green. On his follow-through, though, Woods’ club hit a tree and he was forced to let go of it.
“It didn’t feel very good,” Woods said.
Despite wincing down the fairway, Woods recovered to make par. He then nearly aced the par-3 17th before making an easy birdie to get back to red numbers.
“This was a nice little 5-iron,” Woods said. “… I liked it right away.”
The last time Woods opened an PGA Tour tournament with an under-par round? The 2015 Wyndham Championship, when he carded a first-round 64 before tying for 10th.
Woods is coming off a 12th-place finish at the Honda Classic, his third start of the season after a MC at the Genesis Open and T-23 at the Farmers Insurance Open. He will play next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he has won eight times.