As far as golfing omens go, hitting your first shot out of bounds is about as bad as it gets.
That's what Tiger Woods did Thursday after receiving an electric introduction for his first competitive round ever in Mexico. Woods would scramble to make double bogey on the opening hole, but he played the next 17 in two under to post an even-par 71 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
He is eight behind leader Rory McIlroy and its T25 in the 72-man, no-cut event.
Woods rebounded from the opening double quite nicely, stringing together three birdies in a row from 4–6 to get into red numbers.
The round then stalled considerably, as Woods often struggled with distance control at a course that sits 7,800 feet above sea level. Players are hitting the ball roughly 15% further than they would on a normal week, and perhaps as much as 20% warmer than a week ago at damp Riviera.
Woods missed two short par putts, one at 8 and one at 13, to drop to one over before making his fourth birdie of the day at the par-5 15th. He would make three pars coming in to post 71, and he has yet to break 70 in the opening round of his three PGA Tour starts in 2019.
Hole 18, par 4 — Par, E for day
Another iron off the tee—that was the theme of the day—into the fairway and a solid wedge approach to about 20 feet. Not his best effort from there, and he marked before finishing up the par for 71.
Hole 17, par 3 — Par, E for day
A fanned wedge right of the green, and Tiger left his wedge 12 feet short. Nice putt to escape with a 3.
Hole 16, par 4 — Par, E for day
According to the broadcast, Tiger's group has been put on the clock for slow play. If you've been following here for the last week, you'll know I think that is great news. Anyways, Tiger went with another iron on the green but hit maybe his worst approach shot of the day, a fanned 6 iron that landed in the gallery right of the flag. From there he played a nifty chip to about four feet and saved par.
Hole 15, par 5 — Birdie, E for day
Just what the doctor ordered—he didn't like the tee shot but it flew 325 yards and went right down the middle. He sent his fairway wood long of the green with his second and played a nice chip that rolled out to about eight feet below the hole. Right in the middle and that's his fourth birdie of the day but his first since the sixth hole.
Hole 14, par 4 — Par, +1 for day
Tiger hit his first fairway with the driver in four tries on the 502-yard par-4 14th, and he hit a solid approach from 177 to 30 feet. The putt wasn't close, hanging well right, and it's yet another par. He heads to a par 5 now and could very much use a birdie.
Hole 13, par 3 — Bogey, +1 for day
A gnarly three putt and his second short par putt miss of the day. He hit a solid iron left of flag to about 30 feet but left his birdie effort about four feet short. The par effort broke hard left and didn't even scare the hole, and he's back to the wrong side of par.
Hole 12, par 4 — Par, E for day
Another iron down the middle set up a wedge from just 100 yards, and this one was really poor. Landed about 20 feet short of the flag and spun back to about 60. Perhaps that was an issue of feeling uncomfortable with altitude-induced yardages. A good lag putt to tap in but that was yet another opportunity after the tee shot.
Hole 11, par 5 — Par, E for day
This round has definitely stalled a bit. Woods hit driver again but tugged it into the left rough. He was able to get his second into a greenside bunker, actually a pretty decent spot, with his second. The third from the bunker was poor, finishing a solid 25 feet short of the whole despite having a bunch of green to work with. Two putts from there and it's a disapoointing par.
Hole 10, par 4 — Par, E for day
Another iron down the middle of the fairway set up a 190 yard approach, which he immediately didn't like. It still finished perfectly pin high and about 20 feet from the hole, but the birdie effort hung out to the right. Routine par and he's on to the par-5 11th.
Hole 9, par 4 — Par, E for day
Woods hit a laser long iron down the left side of the fairway to set up a great look from 130. He hit a low, dead-hand pitching wedge that took a big hop but stopped roughly eight feet above the hole, leaving another really speedy one that he had to be careful with. Woods just barely touched the putt, and it did get all the way there, but it didn't break right as he hoped. That was a good look to get back into red figures at the turn, but he'll settle for an even-par 35.
Hole 8, par 4 — Bogey, E for day
The eighth at Chapultepec is a 515-yard uphill par 4, and Tiger thus went with driver and tried to peel a cut to fit the dogleg right. It caught the left rough, and from about 220 he hit a towering long iron that came up just short. That left a steeply uphill chip, and his bump and run ran out to just over three feet past the hole. He couldn't hit the steeply downhill putt with any pace, so it broke hard to the right and missed. That's a disappointing bogey after a solid run of holes.
Hole 7, par 3 — Par, -1 for day
A solid mid-iron to the back edge of the green. He didn't challenge a back-left pin. A good run with the putt from about 40 feet and it's a par.
Hole 6, par 5 — Birdie, -1 for day
It's officially a streak. Tiger found some rough just right of the fairway with his tee shot, forcing a layup rather than challenge water by going for the green. From 95 yards, he spun his third back to about eight feet and poured the putt right in the center. That double sure feels like a long time ago.
Hole 5, par 4 — Birdie, E for day
It didn't take him long to get back to even par. Tiger went with yet another iron off the tee and played to the fat part of the green with his second. The left an uphill left-to-right putt from about 30 feet, and he rammed it in the left side of the hole. Some nice momentum with a par 5 next.
Hole 4, par 4 — Birdie, +1 for day
Despite the hole measuring 485 yards, Tiger went with a stinger iron off the tee. That's altitude for you. It found the middle of the fairway, and he hit an 8-iron from 200 yards to within tap-in range. A couple of good swings in a row and Woods looks to be in the rhythm of the round now. Let's see if he can build some momentum.
Hole 3, par 3 — Par, +2 for day
First solid shot of the day comes at the uphill par-3 3rd. From about 200 yards, Tiger hit a tight cut that was right on line but landed and spun back, finishing about 25 feet short. The putt looked good but ran out of gas and it's a tap-in par.
Hole 2, par 4 — Par, +2 for day
Woods went with iron off the 383-yard second and tugged it a bit, but it held the left side of the fairway. That left just a sand wedge, which Woods left woefully short. Like, 25 yards short. Not sure if that was a mishit or a miscalculation, but certainly odd to see a wedge come up that short. He did well to lag his putt to within tap-in range, but it's been a very shaky ballstriking start.
Hole 1, par 4 — Double Bogey, +2 for day
After an absolutely electric introduction in Spanish—Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Woods!—a diastrous start at the benign, 305-yard opener at Chapultepec. On a hole that has already yielded two eagles, Tiger went with 3-wood in an attempt to drive the green. He hit a snap hook left out of bounds, then re-teed and darn near did it again. The second ball was just in play, and he punched from there into a greenside bunker. Woods actually hit a really nifty bunker shot to tap-in range to escape with 6, but that's a diastrous start nonetheless.