Woods stumbles to a 77 in his return

WINDERMERE, Fla. — Tiger Woods took on any shot without pain or worry Thursday, a feeling he hasn’t had on the golf course in a long time.

As for his short game? <p>

He hadn’t seen anything like it in longer than he can remember, and it was shocking.

Woods flubbed four chips. He took two shots to get out of a bunker on the par-5 seventh hole. He didn’t have a birdie putt inside 20 feet until the 11th hole. And on the four birdie chances he had inside 10 feet on the back nine, he made only one of them. And that was a tap-in.

In his first competition in nearly four months, Woods wound up with a 5-over 77 at Isleworth, his home course for his first 16 years as a pro. That put him in last place in the 18-man field, 11 shots behind Jordan Spieth, who is coming off a runaway victory last week in the Australian Open.

“One of those days where nothing went my way,” Woods said.

The score was not nearly as significant as his health in what has been a lost year for Woods because of back problems. He had surgery a week before the Masters that kept him out for three months. He had not played since Aug. 9 at the PGA Championship because of lingering back issues, and the need to build up his muscle structure.

Woods missed the cut at Congressional in June in his first tournament after back surgery. This time, he is coming back from injury and he is working with a new coach. In that respect, the score was not a surprise.

It was the 10th time in 12 rounds that he failed to break par since his first return in June.

Even so, some of the shots were shocking, especially around the green.

On the par-5 17th, he hit his second shot just left of the green, pin-high in a deep collection area. Woods no sooner hit his chip that he angrily swung back-handed toward his divot, knowing what was coming next. The ball didn’t come close to reaching the green, and Woods turned his back as the ball rolled back toward his feet.

He compensated on the next shot and sent it well past the hole, and he had to make a 10-footer just to escape with par.

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