BETHESDA, Md. (USA TODAY) – Tiger Woods wasn't rusty in his return to competitive golf on Thursday in the first round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club.
He was nearly catatonic.
For 12 holes he missed fairways and greens, left putts agonizingly short and sent chips shots shockingly long.
After spending 109 days outside of the ropes due to back surgery on March 31, the former world No. 1 looked like he needed quite a few more days to get ready to tackle the best players in the world as he made seven bogeys in his first 12 holes.
Then the sleeping Tiger awoke.
With three of his four birdies coming in his last six holes – all from within four feet – Woods fired a 3-over-par 74 on a stifling, sun-drenched day and didn't completely shoot himself out of the tournament that benefits his foundation.
Equally important was the status of his back, which Woods said felt great.
"The back's great. I had no issues at all," said Woods, who won five times last year to boost his career total to 79 but is winless this season. "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."
The layoff, however, certainly did bother Woods in the beginning.
"I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively," Woods said. "You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff but it's just not the same. It's not the same as tournament golf. Adrenaline is rushing and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home. I was trying to get the numbers, trying to get the feels. Didn't start happening until midway through my front nine. It unfortunately took a while to get the feel for it.
" … We were all kind of looking to break 80. It was a bit of a fight today for all of us but we all hung in there."
"We" included Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, who played with Woods. Day shot 73 while Spieth matched Woods with a 74. Spieth said once Woods got his feels back, the Woods he knows showed up.
"He said it was a little different starting out and he finally found his rhythm and we saw what happens when he found his rhythm there," Spieth said. "So look for a pretty solid round (Friday) out of him. Wouldn't be surprised if he shoots a few under."