Potomac - Tiger Woods, pleased with a new mallet putter he
used competitively for the first time, fired a level-par 70 in Thursday's
opening round of the US PGA Quicken Loans National.
But the 14-time major champion, playing his 11th event in a
comeback year after spinal fusion surgery, stood seven strokes behind
co-leaders Andrew Landry and J.J. Spaun after 18 holes at TPC Potomac.
Woods, unhappy with his putting since sharing 32nd at the
Masters, began practising last week with the new Ardmore putter and used it to
replace his Scotty Cameron putter, the one that he used to win 13 major titles
and in his latest return after years of back pain.
"I rolled it well. I really did," Woods said.
"I hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in. I hit a lot of nice putts.
It was nice to feel that again and to feel them go in."
Woods took a double bogey at the par-4 sixth but answered
with birdies at the par-4 14th and 16th holes in a mostly routine round.
"I shot about the score I should have shot," Woods
said. "I didn't have anything going for the whole round. I was hanging in
there and hanging in there."
Landry and Spaun each fired a bogey-free 63 to set a course
record and grab a one-stroke lead over fellow Americans Billy Horschel and
Andrew Putnam with the final groups yet to finish at the suburban Washington
While his 79 career US PGA victories are three shy of Sam
Snead's all-time record, Woods has not won a title since the 2013 WGC
Bridgestone Invitational and last captured a major at the 2008 US Open.
Former world number one Woods won the 2009 and 2012 National
titles when the event was played at nearby Congressional Country Club.
Woods sent his approach into tall weeds at the sixth, took a
penalty drop and two-putted from 35 feet for double bogey.
He found the deep grass again at 10 but chipped out and
dropped his fourth shot inches from the cup for a tap-in par.
Woods finally snared a birdie at 14 after landing his
approach three feet from the cup, but missed a seven-foot birdie putt at 15.
The world number 82 responded by sinking a nine-foot birdie
putt at 16, then went over the green at 18 but chipped to two feet and closed
with his 15th par of the round.
Landry won his first PGA title two months ago at the Texas
Open. He also pushed Spain's Jon Rahm to a playoff in January's CareerBuilder
Challenge before losing on the fourth extra hole.
Now he owns a course record with a simple goal in mind.
"Try to break it again," he said. "You've
just got to stay in the present and keep on hitting the shots and trying your
hardest to make pars when pars are needed and when you get a scoring
opportunity, go for it.
"Whenever I had scoring clubs in my hand, I definitely
capitalized. Played really well. Hit my irons really well and that was the key
of the entire day, just leaving myself opportunities."
Spaun, seeking his first PGA title, was a runner-up at last
November's RSM Classic and took third at last month's Byron Nelson Classic but
missed the cut in seven of 10 starts entering this week.
"I've been building my confidence," Spaun said.
"It's just starting to show."