Tiger Woods has plenty of work to do if he wants to be a winning host again at the Quicken Loans National.
A late pair of birdies salvaged a difficult opening round for Woods, as the 42-year-old opened in Even-par 70 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. He did so on a day where the lead score was 7 under.
Woods (T-48) will enter Friday only a bit ahead of the cutline (currently projected at 1 over).
Woods implemented a TaylorMade mallet rather than his trusted Scotty on Thursday at the Quicken Loans National, as he searches for a way to fix his recent putting woes. But his new flatstick was not exactly hot in Round 1.
The 14-time major champion missed a few key birdie opportunities and did not drain any putts of length. Yet Woods expressed confidence in the flatstick after the round.
“I rolled it well today, I really did,” Woods said in a Golf Channel post-round interview. “I hit a lot of good putts early that didn’t go in, I misread a couple on the back nine, but overall I hit a lot of good putts. It was nice to feel that and it was nice to feel the putter swinging again.”
Still, the putts didn’t drop much. Woods’ driving fell apart, too, for a stretch in the middle of the round.
An early double bogey at the par-4 sixth put him at 2 over and he was still fighting there until he birdied Nos. 14 and 16 to bring home a respectable, if lackluster, score.
The double at the par-4 sixth was startling, as a poor drive left ricocheted off a tree early and bounced right into the run-up area from the tee box. The drive went less than 200 yards. With 280 yards left for his second over a marsh hazard, Woods got aggressive with a 3-wood and his ball ended up short in that marsh.
He took a penalty, dropped and would two-putt from just off the green for a double bogey.
This would be the first of five straight missed fairways. Woods hit into a marsh hazard again off the tee (with an iron!) at the par-5 10th, but the ball was playable, he pitched out and came away with a gutsy par.
His tee shot at the par-4 11th was also a huge miss with an iron, as his ball floated right of the gallery. Woods pitched out again, hit an approach from 147 yards to 6 feet and made the putt for another huge par save.
Woods proceeded to miss 11- and 6-footers for birdie at the next two holes but nearly drove the green at the par-4 14th with a 3-wood. A beautiful pitch from just in front of the surface left him 3 feet. He drained the putt for his first birdie of the day.
After failing on a 7-foot birdie effort at the par-4 15th, Woods dropped a 9-footer for birdie at the par-4 16th to get back to Even par.
On the day, Woods hit seven of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation. He took 29 putts.
It definitely wasn’t Woods’ best stuff Thursday, but the good news is he hasn’t shot himself out of the tournament through 18 holes.