Miami - Tiger Woods said he was "very pleased"
with an even-par 70 in the first round of the Honda Classic that left him four
shots behind clubhouse leader Alex Noren of Sweden on Thursday.
Woods called it the best ball-striking round of his latest
comeback, which has included a tie for 23rd at Torrey Pines last month and a
missed cut at Riviera in Los Angeles last week.
"I'm very pleased," said the 14-time major
champion, who had three birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey in difficult,
blustery conditions at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
"Today was not easy. It's going to get more difficult
because these greens are not the best. It was tough all around today. The wind
was playing really hard, the rough's up and it's really tough to make putts out
Nevertheless, Woods matched his best opening round in four
appearances at PGA National.
His decision to play in Florida this week marks his first
attempt at back-to-back tournaments since 2015 as he vies to become a contender
again in the wake of spinal fusion surgery last April.
Woods teed off on the 10th and had two birdies and a bogey
in his first nine holes.
At the par-five third he hit his approach shot into a
greenside bunker en route to a double bogey.
"One bad hole today," Woods said. "That's the
way it goes."
He responded immediately with a birdie, splitting the
fairway at the sixth with a two-iron and draining a six-foot putt.
"I felt like I had good touch, but more importantly, I
made a lot of the key short putts for par," Woods said. "It was
really tough. Some of those putts were a little bit bouncy."
Noren, a nine-time winner on the European Tour, who fell to
Jason Day in a marathon playoff at Torrey Pines last month, grabbed the last of
his five birdies at his final hole, the par-four ninth, to take the early lead
on four-under par 66.
"I played quite steady my front nine, which was the
back nine, then I just scrambled my way around the front nine," Noren
said. "This was by far my best putting and chipping round of the
Among the afternoon starters, American Russell Henley was
four-under through 13 holes.
Morgan Hoffman, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger were in the clubhouse
on three-under 67.