By Andrew Both
LA JOLLA, California (Reuters) – Tiger Woods made a quiet start on his return to the PGA Tour on Thursday as a large but mainly subdued gallery followed his every shot in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
In his first official start since this time last year, Woods bogeyed the opening hole on the South course at Torrey Pines after hooking his drive into rough and finding the green with his second shot.
He added a bogey at the par-four fifth after pulling another drive, this time into a bunker.
But he hit a perfect drive at the par-five sixth, splitting the fairway and giving the old Woods walk, picking up his tee and striding off without even bothering to watch his ball.
He knew it would end up in the middle of the fairways, and from there he found the putting surface with his second shot to set up his first birdie of the day.
Woods remained one-under after nine holes, six strokes behind early leader Ted Potter on another delightful winter’s day on the layout next to the Pacific Ocean.
A gallery of about two thousand people lined the first fairway to watch the 14-times major champion tee off at 10.40 AM local time (1840 GMT).
Perhaps it was the relatively early hour, and the apparent sobriety of the gallery, but there were no “you the man” screams or anything of that nature, just a few calls here and there of “we love you Tiger”.
Woods is using this week’s event as the start of what he hopes will be a successful build-up to the U.S. Masters in April, when he will try to end his decade-long major drought that stretches back to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
The 42-year-old is on the comeback trail after undergoing apparently successful spinal fusion surgery on his lower back last April.
He was in a relaxed mood on the fourth tee where he wandered over to the nearby cliff to watch a pod of dolphins playing in the ocean below.
The fourth hole, which follows the cliff high above the crashing waves, also afforded a perfect opportunity for a couple of hang gliders to gatecrash the event for a bird’s eye view.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)