Tiger ‘a bit rusty’ in return, 5 back in Memorial

Golf

DUBLIN, Ohio — Tiger Woods‘ first PGA Tour event in more than 150 days started and ended the same way: with a birdie.

Woods, playing in his first tour event since February, shot a 71 in the first round of the Memorial Tournament on Thursday.

“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve played,” Woods said. “Got off to almost an ideal start and got a feel for the round early. I just didn’t make anything today. I had looks at birdies, but I really didn’t make much.”

On a day when not many golfers scored well, Woods was tied for 18th, five shots behind the leader Tony Finau (-6). Woods showed no signs of rust, as two of his four birdies came on the first three holes. And two of his three bogies occurred on the front nine, where he finished at even-par 36.

Woods didn’t take advantage of the par-3s, as he shot 2 over on the four holes. He ended his much-anticipated return by making a 14-foot birdie on No. 18 that would have likely included a roar from the crowd had fans been in attendance for the tournament.

“Well, I would like to have started with easier conditions,” he said. “Wind pumping and swirling all over the place, and it was different. It was hot, the ball was running, it’s getting down there. When I watched last week it wasn’t doing that, and certainly the practice round it wasn’t doing that. But the golf course has changed. It’s gotten faster, and it’s only going to continue to get faster.”

The 71 was better than the previous round Woods played, when he shot 77 to finish last among those who made the cut at the Genesis Invitational on Feb. 16. He said he was dealing with back stiffness throughout that tournament.

The only other time Woods has played since February was when he teamed with former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning to play against Phil Mickelson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady in a May charity event to raise money for coronavirus relief.

“It felt good [to be back]. I mean, it felt good,” Woods said. “I was a little bit rusty, but felt like overall it was a good start.”

Woods said he isn’t worried about the short turnaround, as he’ll tee off at 8:17 a.m. ET with Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka in the second round Friday.

“I’ve felt good about my training over the last few months,” Woods said, “and I’ve gotten ready for this.”

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