A rusty Tiger Woods had a forgettable day on his comeback and he lay at the bottom of the heap after carding a five-over 77 even as Jordan Spieth took the lead with a six-under on the opening day of the Hero World Challenge golf tournament, here.
The 38-year-old Woods, making a comeback after a four-month injury lay-off, stumbled to five bogeys and a double bogey.
However, the big solace for the American legend was that his back held well. Watched and followed throughout by the maximum number of fans, Woods began by an Out-of-Bounds (OB) at his tee shot in the very first hole.
However, the five-time champion at this event escaped with a bogey. It was only on the back-nine that Woods found a little bit of his touch, striking his first birdie in the par-4 12th hole. It could have been an eagle but he missed it by a whisker.
He had a great swing in the next to find the greens but fluffed two chips after his ball caught a slope and eventually settled for a bogey on the par-five hole.
Fortunately, the bogey-streak ended there and he managed par scores in the last five holes. But that was not good enough to catch up with others and he remained at the bottom of the leaderboard.
"Today was weird. I didn't feel like I did that bad. Short game was awful. Didn't make anything. But I missed it a few times on the front nine on the wrong side, just sides you can't miss it on, like on 2. But it was just one of those days where really nothing went my way. Hit two of the best shots I could possibly hit on 13 and I walk away with a 6," Woods said after day's play.
Asked what positives he would take from the day's play, he replied his "shot patterns were fantastic".
"And as I think all of you saw, I got my power back and I got my speed back. It's nice to be able to start launching it again. That's a very good sign."
Woods said he surprised himself by playing such bad chip shots.
"Well, it certainly is surprising that I could hit chips that poorly. I flubbed them. What was it, three of them I flubbed? Took too much off the bunker shot on 7, tried to get too cute with it, and just made too many mistakes. They were all mainly around the green." MORE
In complete contrast, the only blemish in Spieth's
first-day card was a bogey on the par-3 11th hole at the scenic Isleworth Golf and Country Club.
Spieth, the youngest golfer in the field at 21, played a stupendous round, featuring six birdies. Spieth, who had finished tied second on his debut at the Masters this year, takes into day a one-stroke lead.
Spieth was jet-lagged coming into this event after winning the Australia open last week. The young American said familiarity with the sloped greens here helped him play well.
"I was hitting good tee-shots but I think the key was my wedges and short irons," he said.
"I was jet lagged, yesterday I was very tired. Today I felt fine and was able to sleep until 9am. It's tough coming back because its tough to sleep. It was a good Thursday. Nice to put myself in position under par, get a feel for how the course is playing."
Defending champion Zach Johnson shared the second spot with Steve Stricker, Ricki Fowler and Henrick Stenson, who all returned cards of 67.
Johnson had a pathetic front nine with three bogeys in a row from second to fourth hole but he made a superb comeback with six birdies in the back nine.
"I did not have many expectations going in. Today was a day of just going out there and having fun and free wheeling it. I still felt good even after 3-over through four holes. I made a nice bogey on fourth and that's what kind of got me going," the defending champion said adding that it was a very difficult course to play.
Among the top-five, Stricker was the only one to have a bogey-free round. Fowler's card had two bogeys on the front nine but he gained ground in the back nine by firing five birdies.
Henrick was also consistent with his strokes as he sank seven birdies in the day.
Further a stroke behind, Graeme McDowell (68) was tied sixth with Hideki Matsuyama (68) and Jimmy Walker (68).
Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson were tied ninth with identical cards of 69 and following them was Chris Kirk (70) on sole 11th.
Jason Day, paired with Woods, was tied 12th with Hunter Mahan with a one-under card. Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley managed a par card while Patrick Reed (73) and Billy Horschel (73) returned one-over cards.