Tiger Woods stumbles home to a 76 in return at Torrey Pines

Tiger Woods, returning to PGA Tour after 17 months, battled to save par, and then he fell apart during a six-hole stretch on the back nine and stumbled to a 4-over 76 in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Tiger Woods in action at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.   -  AP

The return of Tiger Woods felt more like a celebration on Thursday at Torrey Pines. Now he just has to bring his game.

Woods battled to save par, and then he fell apart during a six-hole stretch on the back nine and stumbled to a 4-over 76 in the Farmers Insurance Open. It wasn’t his worst score on the fabled South Course at Torrey Pines, though it was his highest score of his career in the first round of a new year. “I let it slip away in the middle part of the back nine,” Woods said. “And unfortunately, didn’t hit very good shots.”

Woods wound up 11 shots behind Justin Rose , who opened with a 65 on the shorter North Course with the new and smooth greens. Adam Hadwin of Canada, who shot 59 last week in the California desert, had the low score on the South at 66.

> Read: Woods reflects on a tough return

It was a rude welcome back to the PGA Tour, and to Torrey Pines, where Woods has won eight times as a pro. This was different in so many ways.

Along with fighting his swing he didn’t hit a fairway after No. 7 and coping with thick rough he had not seen since the 2015 PGA Championship, Woods said he had a hard time adjusting to the pace of play from being in threesomes. “It’s just weird to say this, but it was just we were playing so much slower than I’m used to,” he said. “It was just weird waiting that much.”

This was a battle from the start, when his opening tee shot went into the right rough and he hit a big cut closer to the gallery than the green. Woods did well to keep his score from getting out of hand early, with four tough par saves on the front nine to limit the damage.

“And it went the other way,” Woods said. “I hit bad tee shots and made a bad three-putt and laid up from the rough into rough. I just kept compounding problems and mistakes out there.”

Starting with No. 12, he played the next six holes in 6 over, with a double bogey on the 15th hole the biggest blow. Woods snap-hooked his tee shot over the crowd and into a deep ravine, letting the driver fall from his hands in disgust. He couldn’t immediately find his ball amid sand dunes and ice plants, instead finding a spot to take his penalty drop. He hooked a long iron through eucalyptus trees into more rough and couldn’t get it closer than 20 feet.

At least he ended with a birdie and a smile, which looked to be more of a relief not only for Woods, but for Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. The star group sure didn’t play like one, with all three players frustrated at times by the bumpy poa annua greens in the afternoon. Day, the No. 1 player in the world, missed five putts from the 4-foot range. He opened with a 73. Johnson made a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 72.

'A very, very long time'

None of them ever were better than 1 under at any point in the round. “You’re concentrating extra hard out there because obviously this is a tough golf course, but you want to make sure that you’re playing well,” Day said. “Tiger’s back, the cameras are on you, so ... I’m trying to do my best. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the way that everyone wanted to start, but I gave it 100 percent.”

Day asked for fans to be patient with Woods. “Having 17 months off is a very, very long time,” Day said. “I think everyone was kind of anticipating what the comeback would look like. But once again, I said it over the last couple days, we can’t just break down everything he did [on Thursday] because it’s been 17 months. Let him go a year, let him play and go from there. ... We can’t panic too much at the start of the year.”

Phil Mickelson opened with a 71 on the North Course, while Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker each had 72. Beau Hossler made his PGA Tour debut as a pro by shooting 67 on the North Course.

Woods’ previous high score to a start a year was a 73 in the Phoenix Open two years ago. He followed that with an 82. His worst score at Torrey Pines was a 79 in 2014 when he missed the 54-hole cut.