PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The past two years, Tiger Woods was gone before The Players Championship ended because of injuries.
This time, it might be the result of his golf.
The TPC Sawgrass got the best of Woods again Thursday when he couldn’t give himself birdie chances with a wedge in his hand, had only one birdie on the par 5s and wound up with a 2-over-par 74.
Woods once went nearly eight years without missing a cut. Now he’s in danger of missing the cut for the second straight week.
“It certainly wasn’t the most positive start,” said Woods, who was tied for 100th in the 132-player field. “Any kind of momentum that I would build, I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole. Just one of those days.”
Woods is a notoriously slow starter on the Stadium Course. In his 15th year at The Players Championship, he has yet to break 70 in the opening round. In this case, however, conditions were ideal for scoring under warm sunshine, with the wind not picking up until the middle of the round.
Ian Poulter birdied all of the par 5s on his way to a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead. Martin Laird played in the afternoon and relied on his putting for some critical par saves to match Poulter at 65. Phil Mickelson, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, had a 71. Rory McIlroy hit in the water on the island-green 17th for double bogey and shot 72.
Woods was never under par at any time in his round, and he traded bogeys with birdies around the turn. From a fairway bunker on the 15th, he pulled it left of a bunker and took two shots to reach the green. After a birdie on the island-green 17th, Woods was in the fairway on the 18th when he came up short and to the right, leading to another bogey.
Perhaps the most troublesome part of the round occurred when he was 108 yards away on the first hole and wound up with a bogey. His wedge came up short and with spin, catching the slope and rolling off the green, and he took three putts from there. After his lone birdie on a par 5 at No. 2, he went long of the green going after a back pin and was left a difficult up-and-down. Another bogey.
There was a collection of everything that wasn’t quite right — poor wedges from the fairway, mediocre chipping, not making nearly enough putts.
“I just didn’t score,” Woods said. “The best shot I hit all day was on 3, and it ended up in a spot where I really couldn’t play from. It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots, and obviously, my bad shots ended up in worse spots.”
Woods withdrew in the middle of the final round at the 2010 Players Championship with what turned out to be a neck injury. A year ago, he stopped after a 42 on the front nine with an injury to his Achilles’ tendon that kept him out of golf until August.