Woods brings back big crowds

Published 8:08 am Friday, January 26, 2018

SAN DIEGO  — Tiger Woods has been away from the PGA Tour too long to know for certain when a shot is as good as it looks.

This was a 6-iron on the par-3 16th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines, from 188 yards to a slightly elevated green with a pin tucked behind a deep bunker. The sun was setting behind the Pacific late Thursday afternoon, and the glare made it tough to follow the flight of the ball.

“We can’t see anything land from back there, so we’re just listening for some noise,” Woods said. “And people started cheering.”

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The ball rolled to the hole and broke a few inches in front of the cup for a tap-in birdie .

Woods brought big crowds back to golf in his latest return to the PGA Tour, and he even produced a few big roars.

There just weren’t enough cheers for his liking.

Playing for the first time since recovering from a fourth back surgery that cost him another year on the PGA Tour, Woods was mostly steady, sometimes spectacular and ended his day with an even-par 72 that left him seven shots behind Tony Finau.

“It was fun to compete again,” Woods said. “It was fun to be out there.”

The next trick is to stay at Torrey Pines beyond Friday. With virtually no wind making this a day for reasonable scoring, Woods was tied for 84th and will start the second round on the North Course just outside the cut line.

Finau birdied his opening two holes on the North and finished with a 35-foot birdie putt for a 65.

Woods had a few big moments that looked familiar to fans who stood as many as four-deep around the greens.

His three birdie putts were from a combined 30 inches. The longest of his birdie putt was from just inside 2 feet on No. 10 that got him back to even par for the round. He was one rotation away from making a long eagle putt on the par-5 sixth.

He was never under par the entire round, and his near ace on the 16th brought him back to even par.

But he needed those three birdies to offset his mistakes, and the sobering part of his return is that Woods didn’t make a putt longer than 4 feet. That was on the second hole, when his approach from the bunker landed 6 feet behind the hole and went over the back into light rough.