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Thursday, May 10, 2012
Updated: May 11, 11:21 AM ET
Tiger Woods in hole at 2-over 74

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods is in danger of missing consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour for the first time as a pro after shooting 2-over 74 in the opening round of The Players Championship.

Woods has missed only eight cuts in his 16-year pro career, the last of which came a week ago at the Wells Fargo Championship. He will have to shoot a good score on Friday in order to be among the top 70 and ties to play on the weekend.

"I just didn't score," Woods said after failing to break 70 for the 17th time in his last 20 rounds at TPC Sawgrass and was outside of the top 100. "I hit three decent shots in there and just got some of the worst lies. The best shot I hit all day was on (the par-3 third hole) and ended up in a spot where I really couldn't play from.

"It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots, and obviously my bad shots ended up in worse spots."

Woods finished his round nine strokes back of clubhouse leader Ian Poulter, who shot 7-under 65 in the morning wave of players.

"It's no surprise to me to be fresh in the mind this week, to know that I'm finally in the house and I'm relaxed and the family is happy, and all of the hassle and stress is over and I can just go out and play golf," Poulter said after moving into his newly built house last week. "And I have felt relaxed this week."

Poulter made birdie on all of the par 5s and had nine straight one-putt greens, a streak that ended with a long two-putt for par on the 18th.

It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots, and obviously my bad shots ended up in worse spots.

-- Tiger Woods

Martin Laird eventually caught Poulter, tieing for the lead entering the second round.

They were a shot ahead of Blake Adams, with Ben Crane and Kevin Na another shot behind. The 11 players at 68 included Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Ben Curtis and FedEx champion Bill Haas. There were 27 players who shot in the 60s, and more than half the field broke par.

Woods is playing in his 15th Players Championship, a tournament he won in 2001. But he has just three top-10 finishes and only one since his last victory. The past two years, he has withdrawn from the tournament because of injuries but never has missed the cut.

After a tie for 40th at the Masters, Woods lamented posture issues as a reason for his struggles, some of which he endured last week in Charlotte. Woods said it was more about being "one of those days."

Woods hit just 7 of 14 fairways and only 9 of 18 greens in regulation, a percentage that ranked 108th in the field when he finished. He also birdied just one of the four par 5s, a recent sore spot as well.

After dominating the par 5s on his way to victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational -- he was 12 for 16 that week -- Woods was just 1 under on the par 5s at the Masters. Last week in Charlotte, he birdied just 2 of the 8 he played, including none last Friday when he ended missing the cut by one stroke.

"For some reason, it's just been one of those weird deals," Woods said. "Out here, you have to take care of the par 5s. Most of the guys are long enough where week in and week out you can get to most of the par 5s (in two shots), and that usually determines how you finish in a tournament. And consequently, I haven't done a very good job of it, I really haven't, lately. I certainly need to do a better job of that."

Poulter hit 9-iron to a front pin on the island-green 17th to about 10 feet for birdie, then made it through the 18th without drama.

"I played really solid today and holed the right putts at the right times," Poulter said. "I feel like I'm back to normal, and I feel like I'm out there playing the golf I feel I should be playing."

Adams is playing this event for only the second time -- he missed the cut last year with rounds of 72-76 -- and hasn't been getting much out of his game this year. He told his caddie and coach that it was time to stop trying to hit the perfect shots and enjoy himself, and a 66 left him thrilled.

"I was just trying to make every putt," he said of his run of birdies.

Woods played with Rickie Fowler, who is coming off a victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, and Hunter Mahan, who has won twice this year. They teed off early and had perfect conditions for a good part of their round, with very little wind until late on the back nine.

"You've got to take advantage of it while you can," said Woods, who did not. He tees off at 1:49 p.m. ET Friday.

Fowler failed to save par when missing greens that killed his momentum and shot 72, while Mahan hit two shots into the water on his way to a 74.

Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera played a solid round, if only golf were a 16-hole round. He went over the 11th green and into the water, leading to a double bogey. And then he reached the island-green 17th, which proved to be his undoing. His first shot went into the water. Cabrera went to the drop area and saw two more balls sink to the bottom of the pond for a 9. He played those holes in 8 over and shot 78.

Cabrera ended up withdrawing, citing "personal reasons."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.