A soggy golf course and a calm New Jersey morning yielded a number of low scores for players during the opening round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs on Thursday at Ridgewood Country Club. Tiger Woods just didn’t happen to be among them. In stark contrast to Woods’s last competitive appearance — a raucous eight-birdie charge up the leaderboard at the PGA Championship — his opening round at the Northern Trust was largely uneventful. He matched two birdies against two bogeys and posted an opening even-par 71.
“Just one of those days,” he said afterwards. “For example at the PGA on Sunday, I had the perfect full club and I could go after it. At The Open Championship on Saturday, I had, again, the perfect full clubs. Those are days when you take advantage of them, and then there are days when you just don’t have it.”
Woods started his day off Ridgewood’s No. 9 tee. He found the rough with driver at his first two holes but managed to save par. He just missed a 10-footer for birdie at No. 11 and continued a string of two-putt pars on holes 12-16.
With players across the golf course already well under par, Woods was falling behind while he was standing still. But he found a bit of mojo at the par-5 17th, where he hit the fairway with driver and roped a fairway wood nearly to the green before pitching his approach to three feet. He made that to get into red figures.
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After two-putt pars at 18 and 1, Woods gave a shot back at the par-3 2nd. His tee shot sailed just over the flag but settled in a bit of thick rough, and he hacked his chip some 12 feet past the hole. It didn’t take Woods long to bounce back with a birdie — he poured in a 12-footer at the par-5 3rd — but he made another bogey at No. 5 after finding the rough and the front right bunker.
Although making just two birdies was disappointing, Woods did well to save several pars, too. He poured in a number of five- to eight-footers, and sealed his round with a six-footer for par at the challenging 7th. Woods had a final chance to post an under-par round with a neat approach shot to 12 feet at his finishing hole, but never gave his birdie putt a chance.
Among those taking it deep was Tommy Fleetwood, who was playing in Woods’s group. He was at five under before giving one back at No. 7 and finished with a four-under 67 (Marc Leishman, the group’s third, struggled to a 73). At the time Woods finished, five players shared the lead at five under.
“It’s just a very bunched board right now, and I think that’s going to be that way by the end of the week,” Woods said.
Woods is still looking for his first win of the season. He also hopes to seal his position in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup Playoffs in order to qualify for the Tour Championship. Woods, Leishman and Fleetwood will tee off at 12:55 p.m. in Friday’s second round.