Tiger Woods’ first career round in the Valspar Championship was a wild, windy one on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla.. When all was said and done, Woods walked away just three shots back of leader Corey Conners thanks to a one-under 70 that featured five birdies and four bogeys.
“Really brutal out there. We as a group got fooled a lot today,” Woods said. “Into the wind it felt like you just hit walls and downwind it was you couldn’t pick an angle.”
Woods began his round with a birdie at the par-5 first. His next wouldn’t come until the eighth, when he knocked his 213-yard tee shot to 13 feet and holed the putt. After a bogey at the par-4 ninth, Woods made back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11, but followed with two consecutive bogeys to fall back to even par. An incredible par save at the 16th (that included Woods’ arm hitting a tree) and a birdie at the par-3 17th salvaged his round.
“The hand is fine,” he said. “I didn’t hit my hand. My forearm hit the tree a little bit. I tried to warn all the people there, move them out of the way because I didn’t know if I was—if I pulled back on that at all and tried to really use my hands and flight that ball down and if that club catches and breaks, it’s going to be right over there. I was worried about that.”
After the eventful day, Woods was optimistic about where his game is at.
“I think I feel like I’m pleased with every aspect of my game. I drove it well, I hit a lot of good iron shots today and I had some good speed on the putts. Greens are a little bit grainy and I hit a lot of good ones. Spanked a couple here and there. I thought I really did well today, overall.”
He is chasing Canada’s Conners, who carded a four-under 67 with five birdies and a bogey.
“Just kept things simple,” Conners said. “I seem to play well on difficult golf courses and hit a lot of fairways, got myself into position to make some birdies and fortunate to hole some nice putts on the front-9 and keep myself out of trouble.”
“That’s a big key on this golf course, I think. You are off the fairway you can make a mess of some holes pretty quickly. That was definitely a key for me.”
Conners, 26, has made nine of 10 cuts so for in his rookie season, but is still searching for a top-25 finish. His best result came at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he tied for 29th.
Whee Kim, Nick Watney and Kelly Kraft are one back after posting three under 68s. Keegan Bradley, Russell Knox and Jimmy Walker are at two under.
A familiar group of names is tied with Woods at one under, including Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Adam Scott.