Big finish heartens Tiger after 74 in PGA return
By Jim Slater ,AFP
June 28, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
BETHESDA, Maryland -- Tiger Woods struggled to a three-over par 74 Thursday in his PGA return after a three-month injury layoff, but was optimistic after birdies on three of his last six holes at the National.
The 14-time major champion failed to consistently summon the skill that drew worldwide audiences in his first comeback round, but he improved at the finish in his first warmup for next month's British Open.
"The more I played, the more I felt comfortable about shot selections, my sight lines, all different things," Woods said. "I played a lot better than the score indicated, which is good."
Woods, who shares 83rd place, figures to be battling just to make Friday's cut to the low 60 and ties at the US$6.5 million event, standing eight strokes behind first-round leader Greg Chalmers of Australia.
On a Congressional Country Club layout where Woods won in 2009 and 2012, he struggled early after not playing competitively for 109 days due to back surgery to relieve a pinched nerve.
But Woods said his back was in "great" shape, and did not bother him at any point in the round.
Starting off the 10th tee, Woods opened and closed the back nine with back-to-back bogeys, then made bogeys at the second and third to fall 10 strokes off the pace.
"I made so many little mistakes," Woods said.
He responded with a birdie at the fourth hole and consecutive birdies at the seventh and eighth.
"The hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively," Woods said. "Adrenaline is rushing and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home."
Woods, chasing Jack Nicklaus's all-time record of 18 major titles, hopes to play his way into shape this week ahead of the British Open at Royal Liverpool, where he won the Claret Jug in 2006.
"It's a little different starting out and he finally found his rhythm," said Woods playing partner Jordan Spieth. "So look for a pretty solid round tomorrow out of him. Wouldn't be surprised if he shoots a few under."