DORAL, Fla. — There were 27 fans in the gallery when Tiger Woods teed off on the eighth hole Thursday, most other fans having long left Doral because of an afternoon downpour.
Those who left early didn’t miss anything from the world’s No. 1 player.
Woods’ abbreviated day at the Cadillac Championship ended after 10 holes, after rain interrupted play for nearly 2½ hours and forced the first round into today because of darkness. His numbers: two bogeys, eight pars and maybe most newsworthy, no noticeable grimaces on account of the balky back that forced him to withdraw Sunday in the final round of the Honda Classic.
“Warmup was good and I felt good all day, even through the delay,” Woods said. “I’m ready to go back out tomorrow and play well.”
His day ended with a bogey at the par-5 10th, and that left him five shots behind the overnight leaders, with Harris English the only one of those to actually finish the opening round. Of the 68 players who were on the course Thursday, only seven failed to make a single birdie.
Woods was one of them. Going back to the third round of the Honda, he has only one birdie in his last 26 holes.
He’ll play 26 more holes Friday, weather-permitting.
“Should be a long day for all of us,” Woods said.
But first, he’ll have to do some rallying in the morning to avoid a rarity for him on the Blue Monster.
In 39 completed rounds so far for Woods at Doral, he has only shot over par three times. That includes a 73 in the final round in 2007 when he won the CA Championship.
“Hopefully, tomorrow I can get back out there in the morning, play well and work back to even par by the end of the first round,” Woods said. “Then shoot a low one in the afternoon.”
There was a sense that good things were coming for Woods when the horn blew to stop play at 2:22 p.m.
He left his first two birdie putts of the day short, scowled a bit on each of those opening holes, and did a bit of stretching while grabbing at the right side of his back after his drive on the par-4 third hole found the left side of the fairway.
Alas, no cause for concern.
His birdie try on that hole hit the back lip but wouldn’t fall. His tee shot on the par-3 fourth left him somewhat exasperated, sailing long and leaving him saying “How the hell did it go that far?” as he walked back to his bag.
That led to his bogey, but he had birdie putts on Nos. 5 and 6 — both missed — and then was in the fairway at No. 7 when play was suspended because of rain.
Woods seemed in good spirits throughout, fist-tapping one fan after the sixth hole, chatting for a brief second with a volunteer as he walked off the seventh, smiling a bit as he stretched again on the eighth during a brief delay caused by Sergio Garcia needing a ruling in the group ahead.
So no birdies, but no back problems.
In short, it could have been a lot worse.
“Felt a lot better today,” Woods said.
Stuard leads at Puerto Rico Open
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — Brian Stuard birdied seven his first 12 holes in windy conditions Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Puerto Rico Open.
Stuard finished with a 6-under 66, dropping a stroke on the par-4 seventh hole — his 16th of the day — in wind gusting to 20 mph at Trump International Golf Club-Puerto Rico.
“Wind is blowing pretty good out there, so got to hit some good shots,” Stuard said. “I did well. I kept it in play nice off the tee, didn’t get in much trouble, and only made the one bogey.”
The highest ranked player in the field in the FedEx Cup standings at No. 13, Stuard finished second in November in the OHL Classic in Mexico. He also had a strong run in January, fishing sixth in the Sony Open in Hawaii and sixth the next week in the Humana Challenge in California.
“I’ve just been playing pretty solid, but been putting well,” Stuard said. “I putted really good to start off the year and then kind of last few weeks not quite as good and then good today.”
Jason Gore and Danny Lee shot 67, and Y.E. Yang was another stroke back along with Ricky Barnes, William McGirt, Tim Petrovic, Chesson Hadley, Eric Axley and Ben Martin.