Tiger Woods helped attract a record, raucous crowd to the Phoenix Open on Thursday, the first big event in a week that concludes with the Super Bowl.
They didn’t see much of a game — at least not from Woods.
In his first appearance at TPC Scottsdale in 14 years — and only his second tournament in six months — Woods couldn’t hit the green with three chip shots and was near the bottom of the leaderboard until two key shots on the back nine salvaged a two-over-par 73. He made eagle on the par-five 13th and a birdie on the par-four 17th when he drove the green.
It was the first time in his career that Woods shot over par in his first round of the year. And he already was nine shots behind Ryan Palmer, who opened with a 64 to build a one-shot lead when play was suspended by darkness.
“This is my second tournament in six months, so I just need tournament rounds like this where I can fight through it, turn it around, grind through it and make adjustments on the fly,” Woods said.
The attendance was 118,461 and broke the Thursday record at the Phoenix Open by just over 30,000.
Palmer has a one-shot lead over Keegan Bradley, who made seven birdies in the morning, and Masters champion Bubba Watson. Phil Mickelson played the final 11 holes in five under to salvage a 69.
The focus on Woods quickly shifted from a chipped tooth to simply his chipping.
Woods twice chipped with four-irons, which he called my “old-school shots from Augusta.” On two other occasions, one after a chip he knocked over the green, he opted for a putter. It wasn’t a bad play, but it used to be rare to see Woods choose to putt from the fairway instead of chip.
He attributed it to the change in his swing.
“I’m just having a hard time finding the bottom,” Woods said. “Because of my old pattern, I was so steep on it that I have a new grind on my wedge and sometimes it’s hard to trust. Some of my shots were into the green with tight pins and either I’ll flop it or bump it, one of the two. I chose to bump it.”
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger made seven birdies on his last 10 holes to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic with an eight-under 64. Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts were among four players tied for second, along with American Peter Uihlein and Andy Sullivan. Rory McIlroy was another shot back after a bogey on his last hole.
Ha Na Jang, ranked 21st in the world, shot a seven-under 65 in the second round of the Coates Golf Championship at Ocala, Fla., and opened a four-shot lead over Stacy Lewis heading into the third round of the LPGA’s season-opening event. The South Korean has full status on the LPGA Tour, but because the opener isn’t a full-field event, she had to qualify last Saturday.