Woods starts in the trees but fights back up the leaderboard

Tiger Woods has been proving the doubters wrong all of his life and here in Jacksonville yesterday this reformed character showed he has not yet given up on this particular personality trait.

A 70 equalled his best first round in in 14 years of competing in The Players Championship – and but for his only bogey of the day on the last he would have fared even more impressively. However frustrated Woods might have looked stepping off that 18th green, few had anticipated him faring so commendably.

Indeed, so many sceptics were already penning the world No 1's latest competitive obit when his drive off the first tee took its inexorable journey into trees off the first tee. Woods missed just his sixth professional cut in 14 years at Quail Hollow last week and the fear was he would do so again here. Woods has never been absent from two competitive weekends in a row but after the sex scandal which ruined his reputation, and supposedly his focus, this acute embarrassment seemed eminently possible.

As it was, Woods has built a satisfactory foundation from which to launch a challenge for his second Players crown. On a packed leaderboard, the 2001 champions is four shots behind the pacesetters, JB Holmes and Robert Allenby, who fired six-under 66s.

In truth, Woods was nowhere near his peerless best, with erratic driving still a concern, as exemplified on the final tee when pulling it into the water. But he showed the fight which had been so conspicuously lacking in North Carolina. He managed to save par from the trouble on the first and from there put on a display of traditional Tiger professionalism. For 16 holes he managed himself nicely and there were some notable moments of brilliance. Wood's two shots onto the par-five ninth were particularly memorable.

"I hit it solid today," he said afterwards. "It's a new week. I've only played six competitive rounds in five months. People have to be more realistic. I'm right in this."

True enough, but there are some impressive Englishmen in front of him, however. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are lurking in the group on third on five-under and will undoubtedly be fancying their chances. Yet there was something of a reality bump for Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman won his first PGA Tour title last week with a remarkable last-round 62. Yesterday he was 11 shots worse and has it all to do to make the weekend on one-over.

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, the Masters champion, was happy to sign for his own 70 given how poorly he played. "I didn't have it today, but I can still get right back into the tournament," said the left-hander, who has a chance to go to world No 1 for the first time in his life on Sunday. For that to happen he has to win and Woods has to be outside the top five. Not probable but still possible.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own