Tiger Woods shot an opening round of even par for the ninth time in 15 PGA Tour starts this season.
Stop me if you've heard this before: Tiger Woods shot even par in the first round of a PGA Tour event in 2018.
Woods opened the Northern Trust, the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events, with an even-par 71 at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. It's the ninth time in 15 official starts this year and the second straight start that Woods has been at even par after 18 holes—he shot 70 at the PGA Championship then followed it up with 66-66-64 to finish solo second.
After starting the day on the 9th hole—which is serving as the host of back-nine starts this week, due to a unique layout that has the 9th closer to the cluhouse than the 10th—Woods began with eight straight pars before getting up and down for birdie on the par-5 17th. He would add another birdie on the par-5 3rd but sandwiched it with bogeys at 2 and 5, the latter of which came after a tee shot found the thick rough bordering Ridgewood's fairways. The 14-time major champion had a good look at a closing birdie but could not convert from 12 feet and tapped in for 71.
Woods hit nine of 14 fairways on the day and eight of 14 greens but struggled with the putter a bit. A week after he picked up a full 5.0 strokes putting at the PGA, Woods lost .043 strokes to the field on Thursday at Ridgewood. The longest putt he made all day was an 11-footer for par at the 11th.
He chalked up some of his ballstriking struggles to having uncomfortable yardages in to greens.
"Just one of those days," Woods told assembled reporters. "For example at the PGA on Sunday, I had the perfect full club [yardage] and I could go after it. At the Open Championship on Saturday, I had, again, the full clubs. Those are days when you take advantage of them, and then are days you don't. You're kind of in between clubs, and given the conditions, as soft as they are, you can't take the low club. You have to take the high one."
Woods, who entered the week ranked 20th in the FedEx Cup, was five back of the lead when he finished his round. The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup qualified for this first playoff event, and the field for next week's Dell Technologies Championship will be limited to the top 100 in points after the completion of the Northern Trust. Woods is a lock to qualify for the first the Dell Technologies as well as the following week's BMW Championship, which will feature the top 70 in points. He has committed to all three events and will thus play three times in four weeks for the first time this season.
Should Woods qualify for the Tour Championship by being in the top 30 after the BMW, he'd get a week off before another back-to-back. The Ryder Cup is the week after the Tour Championship in France, and Woods is widely expected to be one of captain Jim Furyk's four captain's selections. The first three captain's picks will be made after the Dell Technologies and the final one will be made right after the BMW.