The 14-time major champion made three birdies on the back nine, including a left-to-right 12-footer on the finishing hole. 

By Daniel Rapaport
January 24, 2019

Tiger Woods opened his 2019 PGA Tour season with a two-under 70 in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open. 

Woods, making his first official start since winning his 80th Tour title at the Tour Championship last September, got off to a slow start at Torrey Pines' South course, the more difficult of the two host venues this week. He bogeyed the par-3 3rd before rallying with birdies at 6 and 9 to turn in one-under 35. 

The 14-time major champion, who famously won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a broken leg and torn ACL, made three birdies on the back nine, including a left-to-right 12-footer on the finishing hole. 

"I could have shot something around 68, 67 today pretty easily," he said after the round. "I hit a lot of good putts that were around the hole that just didn't go in. Overall, shooting a couple under par on the South course isn't so bad."

The best shot of his day came at the difficult par-3 11th, when he hit a laser long-iron right at the flag and finishing inside three feet. 

He was eight shots back of Jon Rahm's pace-setting, 10-under 62, which he shot at the North course. Of the top 14 scores on Thursday's leaderboard, only three came on the South course. After averaging less than a stroke easier than the South in 2018, the North averaged roughly three shots lower than the South on Thursday.

Woods is a seven-time winner of this event, most recently hoisting the trophy in 2013. He looked healthy and struck the ball well on Thursday, but some untimely shaky ballstriking on the back nine kept the round from reaching the 60s. He did manage to birdie all four par 5s. 

"My feel was a little bit off in my distances with my irons," Woods said. "That' just from not playing at a competitive speed in a while."

Woods will tee off his second round at 12:30 p.m. EST on Friday on the North course's 10th tee. 

Below is a hole-by-hole recap of his round. 

Hole 18, par 5 — Birdie, -2 for day

That's a perfect four for four birdies on par 5s that didn't come easy. 

Hole 17, par 4 — Par, -1 for day

Righted the ship a bit with a 3-wood right down the pipe, setting up a short iron from about 150 yards. The approach was all over the flag but flew about five yards too far, finishing 20 feet above the hole and leaving a devilish left-to-righter. He had to play defense with the putt, and he did, trickling it down to tap-in range. One hole left to get to two or maybe even three under. Remember, he does have a bit of history on that 18th hole...

Hole 16, par 3 — Bogey, -1 for day

Finally the shaky ball striking has consequences. A fanned long iron from 225 found the right bunker, and he hit a decent effort from there to leave himself just under 10 feet for par. It wouldn't go, and that's his third bogey of the day to go with four birdies. On to the home stretch.  

Hole 15, par 4 — Par, -2 for day

Another miss off the tee, this time again to the right. Tiger did well to navigate some trees and get his second short of the green. The chip looked good the whole way before catching a piece of the hole and refusing to drop. Another par and he stays two under. 

Hole 14, par 4 — Par, -2 for day

A nice save, all things considered. Tiger went with 3-wood off the tee but fanned one right, finding some thick rough down the right. He muscled his second into the opening in the green, a solid 60 feet away but the only option he had. Two putts from there keeps the round moving with four holes to play. 

Hole 13, par 5 — Birdie, -2 for day

Another unconventional birdie on a par 5. Tiger actually turned one over with the driver, the first time he's done that, and found the left side of the fairway. The fairways being soft combined with the sheer length of the hole meant he couldn't reach the green in two, so he laid up to a wedge yardage. Woods's third actually flirted with the back rough before spinning back to 30 feet, right above the hole. He curled in a right-to-left speedy one, sneaking it in the left side, to the delight of the crowd. That was a fantastic putt. Back to two under. 

Hole 12, par 4 — Bogey, -1 for day

The 12th is an absolute beast, measuring 514 yards from the back tee. It's imperative to find the short stuff, and Tiger came up with his worst drive of the day by far, a dead yank well left that flirted with an OB fence. It was indeed in play, and he did well to muscle his second up by the green. An indifferent chip from there left about six feet for par, and the putt was well off. Not the greatest day with the flat stick so far. Back to one under.

Hole 11, par 3 — Birdie, -2 for day

That was an abslute DART. An absolute laser from 215 that never left the flag, finishing about three feet from the hole. Those are the kind of iron shots that just look different—not every player in the field has that one in their bag. Now to two under for the round and he's officially got a little momentum.

Hole 10, par 4 — Par, -1 for day

Tiger went with 3-wood off the tee and found the right side of the fairway, leaving him just a wedge. Definitely a birdie opoprtunity. But he tugged his wedge shot and left himself 30 feet, and the birdie effort was low the whole way. Par. 

Hole 9, par 5 — Birdie, -1 for day

Tiger has made a career eating up par 5s, and he did manage to birdie both on the front nine of the South course. But they were far from conventional—especially this one. Tiger's drive found the right rough and he drew an absolutely terrible lie; his second shot was basically a hit-and-hope, and the ball didn't get any higher than waist-high while scooting down the fairway. He had a full 180 yards in for his third, but he hit a nice 7-iron to just left of the flag. Center of the cup with his downhill birdie effort from about 12 feet and he's into red numbers. 

Halftime stats: 4/7 fairways, 6/9 greens, 14 putts, one-under 35.

Hole 8, par 3 — Par, E for day

A nice approach but probably too much club, as Tiger finished above a ridge with a solid 50 feet to the hole. He left the flagstick in—there's a first for everything—and judged the speed beautifully, leading to a tap in. Par 5 next—let's see if he can turn in red numbers. 

Hole 7, par 4 — Par, E for day

Another drive right down the middle. This time he got aggressive with his approach, actually missing a hair right of a back-right pin, tucked over a bunker. The ball landed on the green but trickled into the fringe, and Tiger opted to play a bump-and-run from there. It was a B/B- effort, finishing about two feet short of the pin, but he had no issues with the par putt. 

Hole 6, par 5 — Birdie, E for day

Tiger peeled off a cut down the center of this par 5's fairway, leaving himself an unobstructed look at the green from about 250 yards. He went with 5-wood and set up for a cut, but he started it right of his line. Couple that with the cut swing and you get a ball that ends up right of the target, in a greenside bunker. He hit a bit of a clunker from there, sending it rolling through the green, but he managed to hole a 10-ish footer from the fringe for birdie. He would have been miffed had he missed. All is well that ends well: a birdie 4 and he's back to level par. 

Hole 5, par 4 — Par, +1 for day

First real miss with the driver of the day finds the left bunker on this 450-yard par 4. He hit a really nice shot from there, from 170 yards, to the fat part of the green and two-putted for par. All things considered, not bad. Side note: Both Schauffele and Finau are two under for the day, so Tiger's got some nice visuals to work with. 

Hole 4, par 4 — Par, +1 for day

Tiger has made three swings with the driver so far, and all three have been really smooth. That's one of the underrated parts of this comeback—he's not lashing at the drive like he used to, and he seems to have found a preferred ball flight in that cut. He hit another beauty at the fourth, which is no easy task given the distraction presented by the Pacific Ocean down the left. His mid-iron approach finished about 20 feet right of the green, leaving a slippery putt down a slope. Another miss, this one on the left, but he was able to clean up about a three-foot par putt. Onward. 

Hole 3, par 3 — Par, +1 for day

Missed opportunity there after a beautiful tee shot on the downhill, signature par 3. Probably something around a 6-iron, and Tiger took an aggressive line to a back-left pin. He left himself just over 10 feet for birdie but the putt was left the hole way. He remains one over. 

Hole 2, par 4 — Bogey, +1 for day

Golf is a game of inches, and missing by about one foot led to Tiger's first bogey of the season. His drive drifted right and missed the fairway by about a yard, but the problem with Torrey Pines is the rough is thick pretty close to the fairway edges. He caught a tough lie in the right rough and tried to approach a right pin with a wedge, but it caught the front right bunker, short siding himself. He played safely out of the bunker to about 15 feet, and his right-to-left par effort looked good again but slid by on the high side. A bogey 5.

Hole 1, par 4 — Par, E for day

Tiger found the South course's first fairway, a proposition that has given him immense trouble throughout his career (he famously double bogeyed the hole three out of four rounds en route to the '08 U.S. Open). He pulled driver and piped one right down the center, then played a bit conservatively with a short iron into the elevated green. Instead of challenging a left pin, he played to the fat part of the green, leaving himself about 25 feet up the hill for birdie. The birdie effort looked good the whole way but slid just right, leading to a stress-free par. 

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