If anyone expected a step backward from Tiger Woods this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, they were mistaken — at least for one round. Woods made six birdies and one double-bogey to shoot a four-under 68 on the opening day at Bay Hill.
Woods began his round on the back nine and got off to a hot start. After two pars on 10 and 11, he recovered from a poor tee shot to set up a 10-foot putt for birdie at the par-5 12th, which he sank to move to one under.
Next up was the par-4 13th, where Tiger's approach hung up on the fringe of the green and nearly rolled back into the pond that protects the front side of the putting surface. He then dropped the 20-footer from the fringe to move into a tie for the (very) early lead at two under.
But he wasn't done yet. Woods followed a near-birdie at 14 with a routine par at 15. Then, at the par-5 16th, Woods knocked his second shot to 42 feet. His eagle putt came up just short, but he tapped in for his third birdie of the day to move to three under. He finished out with pars at 17 and 18 to go bogey-free through nine.
He's walking them in.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 15, 2018
Tiger is tied for the lead and -3 thru 7. pic.twitter.com/rgejomFh4p
Woods ran into trouble for the first time at the 3rd hole, his 12th of the day. He smashed his drive way right on the par 4 and the ball sailed out of bounds, Tiger was forced to walk back to the tee for his third shot. His second tee shot also went well right but stayed in play. He nearly saved bogey when his recovery shot from the rough found the green, but he couldn't convert the 26-foot downhill putt, settling for a double-bogey 6 to drop two shots.
But Woods bounced back quickly. He picked up a shot with a routine up-and-down birdie at the par-5 4th. Another birdie at the par-5 6th hole moved Woods to three under and back into a tie for the lead with several other players.
Then came the par-3 7th hole.
Woods started it with a disappointing tee shot that left him on the fringe, a solid 71 feet from the hole. As Tiger fans were crossing their fingers and hoping for a two-putt par, the 14-time major winner hit a confident putt that tracked all the way across the green and into the cup to temporarily take sole possession of the lead at four under.
Two closing pars, including a clutch up-and-down at the 9th, left Woods at four-under 68 for his first round, and just one shot behind clubhouse leader Jimmy Walker.