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Tiger Woods happy with opening 70 in Honda Classic

An opening even-par 70 left Tiger Woods “very pleased” and in a tie for 19th place after the first round of the Honda Classic on Thursday at PGA National Resort.

Starting on the back nine with an early tee time, Woods birdied two of his first four holes to grab a share of the lead, only to slip back with a bogey at No. 16 and a double-bogey at the par-5 third hole, where it took him four shots to get down from a greenside bunker.

He bounced back with a 5-foot putt for birdie on the next hole and finished with five consecutive pars in becoming one of only 39 players in the 144-man field to shoot par or better.

“I played hard today,” Woods said. “It was difficult out there. I just had to grind it out all day and I was very happy with it.”

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Photos: 2018 Honda Classic Faces

Photos: 2018 Honda Classic Day One

The Jupiter Island resident said he continues to progress in his quest to get back to playing tournament golf after a two-year layoff.

“I feel like I’m really not that far away,” he said. “I’m starting to get a feel for scoring again and scoring in tournaments, and today was a day I’m very proud of because I missed the ball in the correct spots. I didn’t do that (last week) in L.A., hit the ball in the wrong spots and consequently I was down the road after two days.”

Woods hit only 7-of-14 fairways and missed eight greens in regulation but scrambled well, getting up-and-down from off the green six times in eight tries.

“I felt like I had good touch,” he said, “but more importantly, I made a lot of key short putts for par.”

Woods, who said it was “easily” the best he’s hit the ball in any of the seven rounds he’s played this year, said the combination of difficult greens, gnarly rough and gusty winds figure to make getting under par difficult for anyone.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “It was very positive today. It was a tough day for all of us.”

Players rip greens: A number of players voiced criticism of the greens, which were noticeably bare in spots and have clearly been treated with green dye by the maintenance crew in recent weeks.

Morgan Hoffman, whose 3-under 69 left him one shot off the lead, said the greens have replaced the rough as the most difficult part of the course.

“The rough isn’t that bad this year,” Hoffman said. “It’s still definitely a factor, but the greens are a lot tougher because there’s less grass on them.”

Woods said the fact that “the greens are not the best,” as he put it, only adds to the difficulty of the course.

“There’s no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens. That shows you that there’s no root structure.”

Added Justin Thomas, “The greens aren’t very Bermuda-like this week. They are a little bare in terms of there’s not a lot of grain. They roll great and they can get fast downhill … but there’s not like new Bermuda grass. The good thing is coming off poa annua (in California), most things are going to seem easier to putt on.”

Noteworthy: Three players withdrew during the course of the day. Martin Kaymer (75) and Bud Cauley (80) both WD’d after the round, citing wrist problems, while Danny Lee played 15 holes before quitting because of family issues. … Ted Potter Jr., who only 11 days earlier hoisted the championship trophy at Pebble Beach, bogeyed six of his first 11 holes and shot 77. … Rory McIlroy double-bogeyed No. 18 for the first time in his career and wound up at 2-over 72.

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