Tiger Woods' struggles continued in the first round of the 2019 Northern Trust as he carded a four-over 75 on Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Woods ended an 11-year major drought with his victory at The Masters. This marks just his fifth start since that memorable triumph in mid-April, however, and he's missed two cuts over that span while dealing with lingering issues related to his back.
He recorded three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey in the opening round of the 2019 FedEx Cup playoffs. He'll need a significant bounce-back performance Friday just to make the cut.
Woods' practice session Wednesday was limited to mostly chipping and putting on the back nine because he was experiencing back stiffness and didn't want to risk a more serious injury.
"It's best to be smart about it," he told reporters. "This is kind how it is; some days I'm stiffer than others."
The 15-time major champion previously discussed his limited practice ability after he missed the cut in May's PGA Championship.
"Yeah, there's no reason why I can't get up to speed again and crank it back up. I've got to start feeling a little bit better first before that happens. We'll do that first and then start cranking it back up again," he said. "I just wasn't moving the way I needed to. That's the way it goes. There's going to be days and weeks where it's just not going to work."
His performance has dropped off significantly since The Masters. He opened the year with five straight top-30 finishes and a cumulative score of 43-under par.
Woods has posted just two sub-70 scores in his past 13 rounds, though. And his swing doesn't look anywhere near as free and easy as it did at Augusta when he captured his fifth green jacket.
Thursday's score was made worse by the fact that Liberty National was gettable. Early clubhouse leader Troy Merritt tallied a nine-under 62, leaving Tiger 13 strokes off the pace.
Not only does Woods face an uphill battle to make this week's cut, but his form also must improve markedly in the immediate future if he wants to qualify for the Tour Championship in hopes of defending his title in the playoff finale later in August.
All told, his outlook is far less promising now than it was four months ago, and trying to play three tournaments in three weeks doesn't bode well for a 43-year-old legend with back problems.