Woods struggles on return to tour

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 06, 2011
Tigers Woods is at risk of missing consecutive cuts for the first time in his professional career after shooting a 2-over 73 in the first round at the Frys.com Open on Thursday, putting him six shots off the lead. In his first tournament in seven weeks, Woods went 13 holes between his only two birdies, indicating his efforts to revamp his game during the time off have not borne fruit. ''That's probably one of the worst putting rounds I've ever had,'' Woods said. ''I can't putt the ball any worse than I did today.'' Texas Open winner Brendan Steele opened with a 4-under 67 on a cool day at CordeValle with a few bursts of showers. He was joined in the lead by Briny Baird, Garrett Willis and Matt Bettencourt. Woods fell out of the top 50 in the world ranking this week for the first time in 15 years, and it showed. The best golf in his group came from college student Patrick Cantlay, the No. 1 amateur in the world, who opened with a 2-under 69. Woods was tied for 86th, although he was still only one shot out of the top 70 and ties that advance to the weekend. It marked the sixth straight round in which he failed to break par. He had not played since missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August, finishing out of the top 100 for the first time in a major. Woods said the time off at least gave him time to practice, to nail down the major work in his swing change with Sean Foley, and to play 36 holes a day at home in Florida. But whatever he did right Thursday was derailed once he got on the greens. Woods missed three putts inside 6 feet, two of them for birdie. Even toward the end of his round, he froze when he saw a 4-foot par putt on the 16th hole take a 360-degree ride around the edge of the cup before falling. ''The rest of the game was not too bad,'' Woods said. ''I hit some bad shots, yes. But also, I hit some really good ones. And very pleased at the shots I was hitting most of the day. But I got nothing out of the round on the greens. And whatever momentum I could have gotten by hitting good shots ... you know, I just missed putts.'' The last time Woods missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour was in 1994, when he was an 18-year-old amateur. In fact, he missed his first seven cuts as an amateur. On the PGA Tour, he has missed the 36-hole cut only seven times in his career. ''I need to put together a good round tomorrow and gradually piece my way back into the tournament,'' Woods said. The leaders didn't seem to have many problems, although the cold weather and occasional rain put low scores at a premium. Steele birdied his last two holes for a 31 on the back nine. Baird has made nearly $12 million on the PGA Tour - the most of anyone without having won a tournament - and gave himself hope of a breakthrough victory by playing without a bogey. The group at 68 included a pair of Australians, Rod Pampling and Matt Jones, both on the bubble for finishing in the top 125 on the money list and keeping their PGA Tour cards. There are two more tournaments after this week. Money is not an issue for Cantlay - at least not yet. He has done so well this year, from being low amateur at the U.S. Open to his record-setting 60 at the Travelers Championship, that some feel he is ready for the PGA Tour. He wasn't all that impressed with a score that was four shots better than Woods. ''He played how he played,'' Cantlay said. ''I didn't have any expectations for what he was going to do, or what anybody else was going to do, except for myself.''
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