POTOMAC, Md. — Tiger Woods used a new putter and got the same middling results Thursday in the Quicken Loans National.
Woods battled back from a double bogey with five straight birdie chances from 8 feet or closer. He made only two of them and had to settle for an even-par 70, leaving him seven shots out of the lead in the opening round on the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
Andrew Landry set the pace on a difficult, but rain-softened course with a 7-under 63. J.J. Spaun matched him in the afternoon, playing in the group behind Woods without hardly anyone noticing that he played bogey-free while running off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
Landry, who won the Texas Open in April for his first PGA TOUR title, also had a new putter in the bag. All the attention was on Woods, who had hoped a mallet-style putter might help him shake out of a putting slump. It didn’t.
“I shot about the score I should have shot today,” Woods said.
He never made a putt outside 10 feet, and the final stretch in the afternoon appeared to be a wasted chance to salvage a score under par. Woods also kept his round from getting worse with two big par saves to start the back nine, including an up-and-down from 147 yards on No. 11 after driving it into the trees.
“This is a course that’s going to get tougher as the week goes on,” Woods said.
It was plenty tough for him in his first competition on the TPC Potomac, and his first time playing the tournament since 2015. This also is the last edition, and the field is among the weakest on the PGA TOUR this year. Rickie Fowler is the only player in the top 10 in the world, and he also rallied for a 70.
Even when he kept it in the short grass off the tee, Woods didn’t have a reasonable birdie chance until No. 5, and he missed from 10 feet.
And then he ran into trouble on the par-4 sixth, starting with a tee shot he pulled left that caromed off a tree and landed in a the mown path that leads from the tee to the fairway. Woods tried to hit a 3-wood to the green and it came up short and into the hazard. He had to drop it in more rough, came up just short of the green and wound up making a 4-foot putt to escape with double bogey.
Going with an iron off the tee at the par-5 10th, he pulled that into the hazard but at least was able to chop it back to the fairway, rip fairway metal around the green and chip it close to save par. On the next hole, he blasted a tee shot well right, over the gallery, and had to pitch out back into play again. He said the 6-foot par putt gave him momentum, and he was never under much stress the rest of the day.
He just didn’t make anything.
Woods missed from 10 feet and 6 feet on his next two holes. He made his first birdie on No. 14 with a 3-foot putt, only to badly miss from 7 feet on the next hole.
“I didn’t really have anything going through the middle part of the round,” Woods said. “I hit some poor tee shots and didn’t really give myself a chance. I have to do a better job of getting more chances.”
He had no beef with the putter, saying he rolled it well and hit plenty of good putts that didn’t fall.
“Most of the good scores were shot in the morning,” Woods said. “Hopefully, I can go out there and do it myself.”
The course was the fourth-toughest on the PGA TOUR last year, trailing only three majors, though it was soft enough and the wind was mild so that low scores were available. Kyle Stanley won at 7-under 273 last year. Landry and Spaun shared the lead at 7 under after one round.
“I expect that if we don’t get any rain the next few days, the course is going to firm up, greens get firm, get a little bit quicker, but it’s not going to be like last year,” Billy Horschel said after his 64. “So you’re going to have to go out with the mindset that it’s a little bit different course, you can’t be as conservative, you’ve got to still try and make birdies.”
Andrew Putnam also was at 64 while playing in the afternoon. Beau Hossler and Abraham Ancer were another shot behind.
Woods has been at least six shots behind — and no better than a tie for 29th — after the opening round of his last six tournaments dating to the Masters.