Hunter Mahan never imagined making his Tour debut at this stage in his career.

He has been a pro for 14 years, with two World Golf Championships among his six PGA Tour victories, seven appearances in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and just short of $30 million in career earnings.

Mahan sees this more as an opportunity than a demotion.

“The best thing for my game is to play tournaments and put to the test my skills in tournament golf,” Mahan said after his pro-am round at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

“This is where I can play, so it’s the perfect opportunity to work on my game.

“I feel like I’m making strides, and I want to continue to push myself. Right now, it feels good. I feel like I’m building on something, and I haven’t felt that in a long time.”

The tournament started Thursday on the Scarlett Course at Ohio State University. It is the first of four tournaments in the Tour Finals that offer PGA Tour cards to 25 players who make the most money from these events.

The tournaments are for players who finished in the top 75 on the Tour and from Nos. 126 through 200 in FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour.

The top 25 from the Web’s money list already are assured of PGA Tour cards and are playing for higher status.

Mahan finished the fiurst round at 3-under 68, three strokes behind leader Keith Mitchell.

Mahan is not the only PGA Tour winner in Ohio. Ben Crane, Matt Jones and Johnson Wagner also are at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Also in the field is Roberto Castro, who last year played in the Tour Championship.

Mahan played in the Ryder Cup three years ago in Scotland, but it wasn’t long before he began to juggle life on the road with a growing family at home. He has three children, who are ages 4, 2 and 1.

He failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time last year, and then he began work with swing coach Chris Connell at the end of last year.

This is a rebuilding process for Mahan, and he is showing plenty of patience. Playing on the final year of his full exemption from his second World Golf Championships title, he made only 10 cuts in 26 starts, though that included a tie for 16th in the Wyndham Championship.

“I felt like I had an identity crisis,” Mahan said of his swing. “Some players could play from where I was, and some could have had success. But it’s not in my DNA, and I believe everyone has a golf DNA from where they play their best. I’m trying to get back to that.”

He said Connell has helped fix the glaring mistakes. Now it’s about regaining consistency, and confidence.

“The good thing is Chris knew where he wanted to take me,” Mahan said. “We’re going where I wanted to go and where he wanted to go, and it’s just figuring out how to get there.”

Mahan never played what was then the Nationwide Tour when he left Oklahoma State. PGA Tour cards back then were awarded through qualifying school, which he went through twice before he embarked on a career in which he rose as high as No. 4 in the world.

Woods releases video

The latest image of Tiger Woods looked more familiar. The 14-time major champion had a golf club in his hand.

Woods tweeted a short video on Thursday showing him hitting a chip shot with a message that said,

“Dr. gave me the ok to start pitching.”

He had a fourth surgery on his back to fuse disks in April.

Other tournaments

Sean Knapp won the U.S. Senior Amateur in Minneapolis in a 2-and-1 victory over Paul Simson.

... Callum Shinkwin shot an opening 6-under 66 to take the lead at the Czech Masters.