Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour started and ended well, but the rest of his first round at the Memorial Tournament was more ho-hum.
With birdies on his first and final holes, Woods finished with a 1-under-par 71 at Muirfield Village Golf Club. At the end of his round, he was tied for 18th place, five shots behind leader Tony Finau.
“Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve played,” Woods said. “I got off to almost an ideal start and got a feel for the round early. I just didn’t make anything today. I had looks at birdies, but I really didn’t make much.
“I was a little bit rusty, but felt like overall it was a good start.”
Woods hadn’t played a tour event since the Genesis Invitational in mid-February, a month before the PGA shut down because of the pandemic. He finished 68th in that at 11-over par.
His only other competition was with Phil Mickelson and quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a made-for-TV event on May 24.
Woods, 44, is a five-time Memorial champion, drawing huge crowds for his rounds. Spectators aren’t permitted this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, so a throng of about 40, mostly media members and tournament officials, followed him and playing partners Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka.
Woods got off to a hot start. He birdied No. 1 with a 10-foot putt and No. 3 after putting his approach shot one foot from the cup.
Woods wouldn’t birdie again until the 15th hole. He bogeyed No. 6, avoiding a double-bogey by making an 8-foot putt, and No. 8 to fall back to even par.
Woods saved par on No. 10 with a 9-foot putt and on 14 with a 10-footer. On the par-5 15th, he got back under par by hitting his approach shot inches from the cup from 109 yards.
Woods bogeyed the par-3 16th hole after hitting his tee shot into the bunker and failing to make a 22-foot putt.
But he finished with the birdie on 18. He put his approach shot 14 feet from the hole and made the putt.
“I was very pleased the way I drove it and my feel for my irons,” Woods said. “I just didn’t quite hit the putts hard enough. Most of my putts were dying. I didn’t quite have enough oomph to it.”
But overall, it was an encouraging return to tour competition, especially considering the wind and how tough Muirfield played.
“I would like to have started with easier conditions,” Woods said. “Wind pumping and swirling all over the place, and it was different. It was hot, the ball was running, it’s getting down there. When I watched last week (at the Workday Charity Open), it wasn’t doing that, and certainly in the practice round it wasn’t doing that. But the golf course has changed. It’s gotten faster, and it’s only going to continue to get faster.”
McIlroy, who’s No. 1 in the world rankings, shot a 70. Koepka, a four-time major champion, had a 72.
Woods last won the Memorial in 2012. He won the tournament in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and again in 2009. Woods finished tied for ninth last year.