Tiger Woods endured a rocky return at the Farmers Insurance Open in California on Thursday, posting the highest season-opening PGA Tour round of his career with a four-over-par 76. Woods, playing his first full-field PGA Tour event since returning from more than a year off with a back injury, carded a bogey-strewn opening round on the Torrey Pines Golf Club’s South Course.
Tiger's first start in 19 months— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 27, 2017
Rose leads over Mr. 59
The Takeaway: pic.twitter.com/wAT59bhV6Q
It was anything but a happy return to the challenging coastal layout outside San Diego where the former world No.1 has won no fewer than eight times in his career, most notably his epic 2008 US Open victory.
Woods’ previous highest season-opening round was a 73 shot at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015, according to PGA Tour officials. “I was fighting out there all day,” Woods said afterwards.
The 41-year-old’s round unravelled during the back nine, when three consecutive bogeys starting on the 12th were capped with a double-bogey on the 15th. A further bogey on the 17th left him facing the prospect of finishing five over before a birdie on the last -- nervelessly draining an awkward eight-foot putt -- reduced the damage.
All of Tiger's swings from day 1 👀 pic.twitter.com/2fKXo0lPli— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 27, 2017
“I let it slip away in the middle part of the back nine and unfortunately didn’t hit very good shots,” said Woods, who took encouragement from a solid if unspectacular start which left him at one under through 11.
“I fought my tail off out there. I fought hard. I was in a good spot to really shoot a good round today and didn’t really have my best stuff early,” Woods said. “But I got through there and that’s one of the positives obviously I’m going to take out of it.”
The round left Woods 11 shots behind first-round leader Justin Rose of England, who posted a seven-under-par 65 earlier Thursday. Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, produced an eagle on his last hole after a blistering back nine on Torrey Pines’ North Course.
The 36-year-old 2013 US Open champion hit three birdies and two bogeys over the front nine to go to the turn in one under. But a birdie on the North Course’s par-four first -- his 10th of the day -- launched a low-scoring back nine, with an eagle three on the par-five fifth followed by back-to-back birdies.
Rose’s momentum faltered however with a bogey on the penultimate hole before a brilliant eagle on the last resurrected his round. “Great start to the tournament,” said a satisfied Rose.
“The key to the round was having four eagle putts. I hit all the par fives in two so managed to convert two of those,” added Rose, citing his barnstorming closing eagle as the highlight of the round. “Obviously a very sweet way to finish. It was just a perfect five-wood into the last hole.”
Canada’s Adam Hadwin, fresh from a second placed finish at La Quinta last weekend which included a rare 59, was a shot back after carding a six-under-par 66. Lurking behind Hadwin on five-under were a group of five players, Gary Woodland, Charles Howell III, Beau Hossler, Trey Mullinax and Brad Fritsch of Canada, who all carded 67s.
A group of 11 players were a further shot back. World No.1 Jason Day, who had gone round with Woods, was eight off the lead after posting a one-over-par 73.