- - Thursday, June 28, 2018

POTOMAC, Md.  — TPC Potomac didn’t play quite as difficult as advertised Thursday, but it gave the field’s two biggest names all they could handle.

Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler both struggled at times Thursday, as both shot rounds of even par 70 and currently sit seven shots behind leaders Andrew Landry and JJ Spaun, who each fired bogey-free rounds of 63.

Woods began the day with five consecutive pars before running into trouble at the 6th. His drive struck a tree and dropped down less than 100 yards from where he teed off. From there, he hit his second shot into the hazard and was forced to scramble just to make double bogey.

Woods was forced to scramble again at 10 and 11 after errant tee shots, but pars on both holes helped him keep momentum. Woods got both dropped shots back with birdies at 14 and 16, and a clutch up and down on 18 allowed him to stay at even par.

“I shot about the score I should have shot today,” Woods said. “I didn’t really have anything going through the middle part of the round, just hanging in there, hanging in there. Hit some poor tee shots and didn’t really give myself a chance. When I did, I made a couple birdies, which is nice, but I have do a better job to give myself some more chances.”

The 14-time major champion was mostly solid tee-to-green, but once again struggled with the putter, losing more than a stroke to the field on the greens. Woods made the switch from a Scotty Cameron blade putter to a TaylorMade mallet putter Thursday and did see signs of improvement.

“I hit good putts [today], they just didn’t go in, which is fine, I don’t mind that at all,” Woods said. “I misread one putt on the back nine, so be it, but I hit a lot of good putts today on my line with the speed I wanted. But I haven’t done that in a while, I haven’t been doing that. That’s the positive sign.”

Woods played in much tougher conditions Thursday afternoon, as most of the players closer to the lead began play early in the morning. He will get a fresh golf course Friday when he tees off the 10th tee at 8:20 a.m.

Currently sitting in a tie for 48th, Woods should be in good position to make the weekend, but he believes he’s far from out of the tournament.

“Yeah, but it’s one of those things where we’re not too far back,” Woods said. “Now 3 under’s in 10th spot. Just have a few good holes early on the front nine or the back nine, my front nine, that all of a sudden you’re right back in the game.”

Fowler made the turn at one-over par after a bogey at the 4thand dropped to two-over after another bogey at 13. Birdies at 14 and 18 helped salvage his round to brought him back to level par.

“It was a little bit of a grind,” Fowler said.

With temperatures expected to soar into the mid-to-high 90s this weekend, the course should get tougher as it dries out. Despite the heat, Fowler is looking forward to a firm and fast golf course.

“I’m looking forward to the course drying out,” Fowler said. “I feel like it separates the field a little bit more to who’s playing well that week and who’s not. It will be nice to get a morning round tomorrow, fresh greens. It will all even out and hopefully get a good one tomorrow and get ourselves in good position for the weekend.”

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