He did not show much reaction on perhaps his most memorable shot of the day — with his legs near the edge of a bunker some 75 feet to the left of the 11th green, he blasted out to the top shelf and watched the ball take dead aim until it stopped a foot short.
He failed to save par from a bunker on the 14th, and he hooked his tee shot so badly on the 15th hole that it traveled only about 225 yards before it was gobbled up by the ice plant. He had to take a penalty drop and wound up making double bogey.
More than his 75th career win, it was a strong opening statement for what could be a fascinating year.
Before anyone projects a monster year for Woods based on one week — especially when that week is at Torrey Pines — remember that he just missed the cut last week in Abu Dhabi.
Woods said he was not playing much differently, and would have liked two more rounds in the Middle East. Instead, a two-shot penalty for a bad drop sent him home.
Still, in healthier and happier times, he was usually sharp coming after a long layoff. Throw out the trip to the Arabian Gulf, and he is.
Was this a statement? Woods was eight shots ahead with five holes to play when he stumbled his way to the finish line, perhaps from having to kill time waiting for the group ahead. Erik Compton, Steve Marino and Fritsch had an entire par-five open ahead of them at the end of the round.
Still, Woods played a different game than everyone else at Torrey Pines.
“I think he wanted to send a message,” said Hunter Mahan, who shares a swing coach with Woods. “I think deep down, he did. You play some games to try to motivate yourself. There’s been so much talk about Rory [McIlroy]. Rory is now with Nike. That would be my guess.”
Mahan got a good look at Woods this week, playing in the group behind him on the front nine because Mahan was first off on the two-tee start.
“He looked strong,” Mahan said. “He had great control of his swing. He was hitting some strong shots, different from any other player I saw out here.”
Woods is not likely to return to golf until the Match Play Championship next month.