Tiger Woods struggles, shoots 73

Updated: October 6, 2011, 10:42 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- Tiger Woods got off to a disappointing start in his latest return to golf, shooting 2 over par 73 on Thursday during the opening round of the Frys.com Open.

The score left him six shots behind leaders Brendan Steele, Briny Baird, Garrett Willis and Matt Bettencourt at CordeValle Golf Club, site of the Fall Series event that has just nine of the top 100 players in the world.

Woods is tied for 86th in a field of 132. The top 70 and ties make the 36-hole cut on Friday.

"I'm not happy," Woods said immediately after his round. "It's one of my worst putting rounds. I don't think I could putt worse than I did."

It wasn't the total putts -- 27 -- but more the fact that Woods could get no momentum by holing some makeable birdie chances. Woods made just two birdies, against two bogeys and a double bogey on the 12th hole where he could not find a second shot that found a hazard.

"I just had a hard time hitting my stroke, and then I started altering it. And it was all over the place," Woods said of his putting. "My stroke got worse because I was trying to do it, and then, you know, I started losing confidence in it because I wasn't hitting my line. So it was just a downward spiral."

Woods is playing in his first tournament since the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut seven weeks ago. It is just his ninth start of the year on the PGA Tour and only his fourth since he tied for fourth at the Masters in April.

But after finally getting healthy and being able to spend time working on his game for the best part of the last month, this was a disappointing first round back.

Woods birdied the first hole, then didn't make another until the par-5 15th. In between, he was sporadic, missing fairways and greens at the second on third holes, then missing makeable birdie putts at the ninth and 10th holes.

At the par-5 12th, Woods hooked his second shot into a hazard and couldn't find the ball, meaning he had to take a lost ball penalty and return to the point where his ball first crossed into the hazard. Adding insult to the situation was the fact that he played the hole in pouring rain. The resulting double bogey pushed him to 3 over par for his round.

"The rest of the game was not too bad. I hit some bad shots, yes. But also I hit some really good ones. And very pleased at the shots I was hitting most of the day," Woods said. "But I got nothing out of the round on the greens. And whatever momentum I could have gotten by hitting good shots, you know, I just missed putts."

For the round, Woods hit 7 of 14 fairways and 9 of 18 greens.

Due to knee and Achilles injuries suffered at the Masters, Thursday was just the seventh round he has completed in competition since April.

When asked if he felt a need to validate his selection to the U.S. President's Cup team, Woods said that wasn't the case.

"Well, I'm just playing to get competitive and win a golf tournament. It's not about validation. It's about going out there and playing, and right now I'm six back," Woods said. "I need to put together a good round tomorrow and gradually piece my way back into the tournament."

Bob Harig is a golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE