Tiger Woods Sharp in Round 1 of Players Championship

Tiger Woods, in his first outing since the Masters, played wonderfully in the first round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Thursday, firing a five-under-par 67 on a course that was ready to be had.

Woods tallied four birdies in a row off four in a row and made nice par-saves at the 14th and 15th holes, added another birdie at the 16th, managed to two-putt from 55 feet at the par-3 17th and stood one hole away from something he’s never done here — shoot a bogey-free round at TPC Sawgrass.

In fact, had Woods been able to par the 18th, he would not have had a single 5 on his scorecard, which not only looks really nice but typically leads to a good score.

After a perfect drive with a 5-wood, Woods had 200 yards left and chose an 8-iron … which barely trickled over the green. That’s a bit of a tough break, as a 9-iron seems too ridiculous from that distance. And from down in a swale, Woods failed to get his chip shot onto the green and settled for his only bogey of the day.

“It was surprising how far the ball was going,” he said. “The ball was just traveling out there. The ball was going for miles, and it played, really, really short.”

Perhaps that is why Woods hit just five drivers, choosing 3-woods and 5-woods off the tee. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, good but not great numbers, and yet coupled with a solid short game the kind of day that leads to a good score.

Woods took just 24 putts, but made nothing longer than 6 feet.

“It was a day that I felt like I had to go out there and shoot something in the 60s,” said Woods, whose score tied for the best among those who teed off in the afternoon. “Most of the guys were under par in the morning session. The afternoon wave got a little bit of wind and it dried out the greens, and some of the greens were pretty bumpy.”

He has now played 12 of his last 13 rounds under par and is a combined 42 under par.

But back-to-back rounds in the 60s at the TPC Sawgrass? You have to go back to second and third rounds in 2004. Only one other time has he accomplished that feat, and that was when he had three straight on his way to victory in 2001.

Maybe this year is different. Woods has three victories, and the rules flap at the Masters overshadowed the fact that he contended again, having done so in his last three tournaments, two of them wins.

So far, Woods has shown few signs of getting away from the game after the year’s first major championship. His game is solid if not spectacular.

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