Tiger back on the prowl and fighting to make cut
US golfer Tiger Woods swings from a bunker during the first round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, June 26, 2014 - by Jim Watson
Woods, a 14-time major winner chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, fired a three-over par 74 Thursday at Congressional Country Club in his first competitive round since undergoing back surgery March 31 to relieve a pinched nerve.
Applause from hundreds of well wishers greeted Woods at the first tee Friday, one fan shouting, "We missed you Tiger. Welcome back," moments before Woods approached his ball.
Woods found the right rough on the 402-yard opening hole but recovered to reach the green with his approach and two-putted for par from 30 feet.
Australians Marc Leishman and Oliver Goss, the latter in only his second week as a professional, fired 66s Friday to share the early clubhouse lead on six-under 136 -- leaving Woods 10 strokes adrift.
Woods, who has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open, had not played since March 9 at Doral, where he fired a 78 for the worst final-round score of his career.
The 38-year-old American spent months on rehabilitation and is trying to shake the rust off his game ahead of the British Open in three weeks at Royal Liverpool, where he won the Claret Jug in 2006.
Three weeks after that will come the year's final major tournament, the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where Woods won the PGA crown in 2000.
But this week, Woods finds himself simply trying to make the cut to the low 60 and those tied at the $6.5 million US PGA Tour tournament that benefits his charity foundation.
Woods, who has fallen from first to fifth in the world rankings during his layoff, finished the first round sharing 83rd place, eight strokes off the lead and two shots beyond the expected cut line.
After stumbling with back-to-back bogeys three times and struggling early with putts during his first round, Woods closed with three birdies in his final six holes and said that his game had improved as the day went on, saying he was relieved to be competing once more.
"It's nice to get back out here playing again," Woods said.
Woods, whose 79 career titles are three shy of matching Sam Snead's PGA record, has not won since last August's World Golf Championships event in Akron, Ohio.