Playing in his first PGA-sanctioned tournament in 12 months, Tiger Woods finished with an even-par 72 in the first round of the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods was on the South Course at Torrey Pines, which has been kind to him throughout his career. The 14-time major champion has played 42 rounds on the South Course for a total score of 30 under par and a low round of 62, per PGATour.com.
The Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker on Twitter noted Woods' score of 72 on Thursday should be counted as a success for two reasons:
GC Tiger Tracker @GCTigerTracker
First Tour round in a year, on the harder South course, and Tiger shoots an even-par 72. Six back. Success.2018-1-25 23:32:01
Here's how the leaderboard around Woods looks like heading into Friday's second round:
Coming into the tournament, Woods noted he's been spending his free time trying to build up his endurance to prepare for the grind of a 72-hole tournament and a full season of golf.
"I’m hitting a lot of golf balls and building up my endurance," he said Tuesday, via Steve DiMeglio of USA Today. "You have to do it. You have to beat balls for a little bit of time to build up your endurance and muscles. I feel like I’ve done that and now it’s time to play a tournament."
Woods got off to a rocky start with a bogey on his first hole and sat two over par through five holes. He did respond on No. 6 with an excellent 51-foot putt that nearly gave him an eagle:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Tiger Woods ... for eagle ... 😱 #QuickHits https://t.co/mxHnoejKhF2018-1-25 20:19:21
After taking a birdie on six, Woods finished the front nine with three straight pars to make the turn at one over par. His round got better following those early struggles with two birdies and one bogey on the back nine.
There were some vintage Tiger moments throughout the round, including one drive on No. 12 that he initially thought was going to be a poor result:
316 yards. lol https://t.co/EFkufl4Q2m2018-1-25 21:43:03
As close as Woods got to making an eagle on No. 6, he came within inches of making a hole-in-one on the 16th hole:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
WOW! THAT close to a hole-in-one for @TigerWoods! #QuickHits https://t.co/VfEpjdSq6A2018-1-25 22:55:56
Woods' swing was a hot topic throughout the week, particularly after he said he wasn't using a swing coach anymore because he wanted to rely on feeling following his back surgery, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig.
Web.com Tour golfer Lee McCoy pointed out something in Woods' swing he noticed during Thursday's round:
Lee McCoy @LeeMcCoyGolf
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no golf swing expert. I just can’t help but notice that when Tiger gets into tournament mode, he starts moving down towards the ball on the downswing and can’t stay in the shot. So hard to time it up with that much vertical movement.2018-1-25 21:55:22
The primary issue for Woods on Thursday was putter. He cost himself 1.41 strokes on the greens, which offset his 66.7 greens in regulation percentage, and didn't make any putt longer than 4'2" from the hole. If he's able to course correct that problem in the second round, it will at least give him an opportunity to appear on the leaderboard.
As Justin Ray of the Golf Channel pointed out, Woods should be happy he's not in the lead after the first round at Torrey Pines, as that's been a harbinger for disappointment:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Tiger didn't want to lead after the opening round, anyway. The last 1st round leader to win at Torrey Pines was George Burns in 1987.2018-1-25 22:48:47
With everything Woods was facing Thursday—playing his first round in an official PGA Tour event since January 2017 and still finding his swing—finishing at par through 18 holes is a big win.
As long as Woods continues to make incremental improvements throughout the weekend, and in subsequent tournaments, this round will be a significant step forward in his recovery process.
Stats via PGATour.com.