- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tiger Woods teed off Thursday for his first round of competitive golf since having back surgery at the end of March, shooting a 3-over-par 74 in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda - a score that had him, at mid-afternoon, at the bottom of the leaderboard.

“It’s nice to get back out here playing again,” Woods said. “I unfortunately have been in my career on the sidelines enough, so it’s always fun to come back out here and play against these guys, the best players in the world, and to get out here and see what I can do.”

Woods looked uneasy on the course early in the day. Teeing off on the back nine, Woods bogeyed his first two holes, hitting the bunker and missing a 16-foot putt on the par-3 10th and overshooting the green on the par-4 11th. By the time he had played nine holes, Woods was 4-over with only one birdie.

The real story early in Woods‘ round was his short game. Through his first nine holes, Woods had 17 putts, including two on every hole but the par-4 14th – which he sank from nine-and-a-half feet.

Woods continued to struggle with his short game as he made the turn, missing putts from 11 and five feet en route to bogeying two of his first three holes. Following a bogey on the par-4 3rd, however, Woods started to look like his old self.

Of the next five holes, Woods birdied three and hit two for par. With six holes left to play, Woods was 6-over and 10 shots behind leader Ricky Barnes, but he began to get a rhythm and parred his last hole to enter the clubhouse seven shots out of the lead.

“The score is not really indicative of how I played,” said Woods, who last played in mid-March. “I had four up-and-downs right there on 15 through 18. Had an easy pick on two, don’t get that up-and-down. Had a wedge in my hand on 3 and I jerk it in the bunker. I made so many little mistakes, so I played a lot better than the score indicated, which is good.”

Overall, Woods looked calm and collected, chatting with playing partners Jordan Spieth and Jason Day as he waited for his shots to start falling. As the day went on, he looked more confident and comfortable in his swing, showing no signs of pain.

“I had no issues at all,” Woods said. “No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic. That’s one of the reasons why I let go on those tee shots. I hit it pretty hard out there.”

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