Playing in his first PGA Tour event since missing the cut at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods had a difficult first round at the 2020 ZOZO Championship on Thursday.
Woods, who won the inaugural version of the event last year, struggled right out of the gate en route to shooting a four-over 76.
This is a far cry from Woods' performance in the opening round last year when he fired a 64. It's not an exact comparison because the 2020 event is being held at Sherwood Country Club in California. It was originally scheduled to be played at Narashino in Japan but was moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coming into the tournament, Woods felt better about his game than he did Sept. 18 when he shot a 77 in the second round of the U.S. Open.
"My game's definitely better than it was at the U.S. Open," he told reporters Tuesday. "I feel a little bit more prepared, a little bit better, and hopefully that translates into playing the golf course."
After an opening-hole par, Woods lost control by shooting three over par over his next three holes. His performance on the par-five 13th hole—Woods started his day on the back nine—was a mess. The 44-year-old hit his first two shots into the rough, and the third went into the bunker in front of the green.
Just when it seemed like Woods was in for an agonizing day, he had his best moment of the round on his fifth hole with an 87-foot birdie putt:
Woods made the turn at three over par with a 39 through his first nine holes. He looked to be settling in with three pars and a birdie in a five-hole stretch, but he gave one shot back with another bogey on his 13th hole.
That bogey was especially devastating because Woods set himself up nicely with a perfect tee shot that landed in the middle of the fairway. The 11-time PGA Tour Player of the Year hit his second shot past the green, forcing him to hit his way onto the green before two-putting to finish the hole.
Woods had another birdie opportunity on the sixth hole with a 25-foot putt, but he left it inches short of the cup and was forced to settle for par. He needed 30 putts to finish his 18 holes and only hit the fairway 53.9 percent of the time.
While this wasn't the start Woods was looking for, he's not in danger of being sent home if those struggles continue Friday since the ZOZO Championship is no-cut event.
Woods is considering playing in the Houston Open in two weeks to prepare for the Masters. If he doesn't take part in that tournament, this could be his final chance to get time on the course in an official event before the Masters begins Nov. 12.