GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Tiger Woods played a lot like the guy who didn’t make the cut at the British Open.
Woods shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday at the Buick Open, his first tournament since disappointing at Turnberry.
He finished the first round tied for 128th on putts inside 10 feet and eight shots back of leader Steve Lowery.
“Probably one of the worst putting days I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was just terrible.”
Two weeks ago in the British Open, Woods was 7 over during a six-hole stretch and ended up missing a cut for the first time in three years.
If Woods fails to break 70 in the second round Friday morning, he will put himself in danger of missing cuts in consecutive tournaments for the first time as a pro.
It’s too early, though, to count him out for the weekend at Warwick Hills even though the cut is usually 3 or 4 under. He opened the 2005 Buick Open with a 71, bounced back with a course-record tying 61 and finished tied for second.
“I not only have to play well to make the cut, I got to play well to get myself back in contention,” said the two-time Buick Open champion, whose worst finish in eight previous stops at here was a tie for 11th. “Guys are going to continue to go low. That’s the way the golf course is playing right now.
“It’s going to be 20-plus to win.”
It usually is.
The average winning score has been almost 21 under par since 2000 at Warwick Hills, one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour.
Lowery took advantage of perfect conditions – smooth, receptive greens and calm winds – in the morning by tying a course record with a 29 on the front nine and finishing 9-under 63.
John Senden also did, making five straight birdies in the morning and finishing with nine to end up only a shot off the lead.
Y.E. Yang, James Nitties, Vaughn Taylor, Brian Vranesh were two strokes back with 65s.
The 48-year-old Lowery hasn’t finished better than 24th this year. He won at Pebble Beach last year, earning a third victory on the PGA Tour and his first since 2000.
Lowery has an 18-hole lead for the 19th time and is hoping to turn that tenuous position at the Buick Open into a title for just the second time in his career.
“It looks like the weather is going to be pretty mild this week, so my (prediction to win) was 24 under,” Lowery said. “Obviously 9 under is a great start, but if you don’t follow it up the rest of the week, it ain’t going to hang around.
“You got to get it done for the last three days.”
Woods didn’t see his awful performance coming.
He was pleased with his practice sessions following his flop at the British Open and had five birdies on the front nine during Wednesday’s pro-am.
Woods was accurate off the tee early, missing only one fairway before making the turn, and his approach shots were solid much of the day.
But his putter let him down.
Woods three-putted from 12 feet on his second hole for bogey and missed a 6-foot par putt on 5, leading to a a big sigh and slumped shoulders. He pulled makable putts at 15 and 17.
Woods did make a clutch putt from 20-plus feet to save par at No. 4, but the result was the only thing he liked.
“I actually pulled it,” he said. “I hit a bad putt there, went in. I hit a really good putt at 15, hit something and went left.
“It’s just one of those days. One of those weird days.”