Tiger Woods rinses final tee shot, shoots 72 in Players first round

Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods rinses final tee shot, shoots 72 in Players first round

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods rinses final tee shot, shoots 72 in Players first round

Tiger Woods struggled to find fairways in Thursday’s opening round of The Players Championship. He hit just four on the round, and his final miss off the tee cost him an under-par round on a scoreable day at TPC Sawgrass’ Players Stadium Course.

Woods shot even-par 72 that included an eagle and a pair of birdies. He stepped on the par-4 18th tee at 1 under, but his stinger iron off the tee drew too much and found the water. Woods bogeyed the hole.

He is six shots off the lead, though he did best his playing competitors, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. Mickelson shot 79 and Fowler carded a 74. (Woods moved to 17-15-4 all-time against Mickelson in 36 rounds where they have been grouped together.)

“When you get going around this golf course and you’re playing well, the golf course doesn’t seem very hard,” Woods said. “But if you’re a little off, you get penalized pretty severely out here.”

Woods started slow in the marquee grouping alongside Mickelson and Fowler. He missed his first two fairways and made par, and then missed a 5-foot par save at the par-3 third. Woods dropped to 2 over two holes later, at the par-4 fifth, after a 10-footer for par didn’t drop.

On the next hole, the par-4 sixth, Woods missed a 10-footer for birdie.

It wasn’t until the par-5 ninth that Woods got things going. He piped a drive 348 yards through the fairway and then hit his second shot in line with the flag, his ball ending up on the back fringe about 18 feet away.

That’s when Woods ignited the crowd by draining the eagle putt from the fringe to get back to even par.

“It was nice to turn the round completely around at 9,” Woods said.

Woods missed the first two fairways on the back nine, too, but got into red numbers by wedging close at the drivable par-4 12th. Woods chose to lay up and was rewarded with a 3-footer for birdie, which he made.

Despite giving a shot back after missing a 6-footer for par at the par-4 15th, Woods hit three good shots to set up a tap-in birdie at the par-5 16th.

At the intimidating par-3 17th, Woods went long and nearly had his ball roll off the back and into the water. But it stayed up and Woods was able to save par. Fowler and Mickelson both rinsed their tee balls and made double bogey.

Just when it looked like Woods was going to finish strong, though, Woods’ famed stinger stung him at the 18th. Woods overdrew the iron shot off the tee and splashed it in the water left. He was able to make a 12-footer to make bogey, but it was still a disappointing end to what could’ve been a round in the red for Woods on Thursday.

“The way I was feeling today, I should’ve shot something in the 60s,” Woods said.

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