BETHESDA, Md. — This much could be said about Tiger Woods and his return to competition — at least he has his health.
And that might be as important as his score.
Woods competed for the first time in more than three months Thursday in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, and it showed. He opened with back-to-back bogeys. He made five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch around the turn. And then he rallied with three birdies over the last six holes for a 3-over 74.
That left him eight shots behind Greg Chalmers, who made only one bogey in his round of 66 to build a one-shot lead after the opening round. Next up for Woods is trying to stick around for the weekend. He has not missed a cut in two years.
“I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively,” Woods said. “You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff, but it’s just not the same. It’s not the same as tournament golf — different level. Adrenaline is rushing, and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. Try to get the numbers, try to get the feels. Didn’t start happening until midway through my front nine.”
As for his back? He had surgery March 31 to alleviate a pinched nerve. He moved around without any sign of pain.
“I had no issues at all,” Woods said. “No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic.”
Even so, he headed back to his hotel for ice and treatment instead of heading to the range — or to the chipping area.
Here are five things to look for Friday at Congressional:
CHIPPING AND PUTTING: Woods hit the ball fine off the tee, particularly his driver on two of the longer holes — the par-4 11th (489 yards) and the par-5 16th (579 yards). He was on the fringe about 50 feet away on No. 11 and left his first putt 18 feet short, leading to bogey. He was just short of the green on the 16th, hit a good chip-and-run to 6 feet and missed that for birdie.
Woods missed two par putts from about 6 feet. He didn’t make a putt over 10 feet.
“That’s all I’ve been doing is chipping and putting,” Woods said. “I hit some bad shots. Those are bad pitches, and those are the ones I should get up-and-down every time.”
CONGRESSIONAL: Woods said while his back feels fine and he has been able to hit all the shots at home, he might not have played this week if the Quicken Loans National (a new title sponsor this year) did not benefit his foundation’s work with children.
Too bad his foundation is not affiliated with Hartford or the John Deere.
Woods missed two majors this year, and probably felt as though he made up for it at Congressional. Jason Day said it played harder than it did for the 2011 U.S. Open, where Day was a runner-up. Only 26 players from the 120-man field broke par.
“I didn’t think it was easy at all,” Chalmers said. “I played really well, and I think anybody who plays really well can shoot a low score. You just have to be coming out of the fairway, and I didn’t that the majority of the time today.”
THE CUT: At least Woods will know where he stands after he finishes his round Friday afternoon.
He was tied for 83rd going into the second round, and he will have a good idea when he tees off what he will need to make the cut. Woods has made the cut in 26 straight events — dating to The Greenbrier Classic two years ago — for the fourth-longest active streak on the PGA Tour.
He has never missed the cut in an event that supports his foundation. In fact, he has won at Congressional the last two times he played, in 2009 and 2012.
THE OTHERS: Woods is in the marquee group of the week, with Day and Jordan Spieth. Day won the Match Play Championship in February, while Spieth has done everything but win this year. He shared the 54-hole lead in the Masters and The Players Championship.
They didn’t give a large gallery much to cheer.
All three made bogey on their opening two holes. Only once — on No. 11 — were all three in the fairway on the same hole.
Day rallied for a 73. Spieth joined Woods at 74.
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