Charlotte, N.C. — Tiger Woods' first round since the Masters left him perplexed and questioning his putting.
Woods shot an opening-round even par 71 at the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday, leaving him six shots behind leader John Peterson, but in decent position with 54 holes left to play.
Well, that is if the 42-year-old can figure out the speed of the greens at the Quail Hollow Club.
"They are on the slower side. They feel springy and they feel fast especially as I am walking on them, but they are not putting that way," Woods said with a smile as he shook his head in confusion. "What I was feeling and what I was sensing just didn't match up."
It showed all day in his inconsistent play on the greens.
On a day when fans joked that Woods and playing partner Patrick Reed were "twinning" — they wore similar pink shirts and carded the same score — his round easily could have been three to four strokes better had he holed a few makeable putts.
The most painful, perhaps, came on a par-4 14th hole when Woods lipped out a 6-footer for birdie. He took three putts on Nos. 4 and 16 and was exasperated after missing out on a chance to birdie the difficult closing 18th hole, rolling a putt just past the cup.
Woods came up with a couple of big putts though, rolling in a 27-footer for birdie on No. 8 and a bender from 17 feet on the over-the-water par-3 17th hole to save par.
Woods' best finish this season is a tie for second at the Valspar Championship, but said he's still trying to get a gauge for where his overall game is following years of persistent back problems.
"I felt like I've played my way into playing shape now — whether it's the simple act of walking and play, recovery from day to day and playing week to week," Woods said. "I feel like I've played my way into the rhythm of it. Now I'm just trying to get a little better."
Woods has not won on the PGA Tour since 2013, but is optimistic about his prospects this week.
He won this tournament 11 years ago, but hasn't played here since missing the cut in 2012. He said the Quail Hollow course is much more difficult than the previous time he teed it up, but he feels as if he is playing well enough to be a factor.
"Ball-striking-wise, I'm fine," said Woods, who received a warm welcome from the fans on the first tee box in his return to Charlotte. "I'm right there. If I make a couple putts, I'd be 2 or 3-under par, which is fine."
Woods said his putting woes may have been the result of starting late in the day. He felt the grass on the greens had grown since earlier. He knows that won't be the case on Friday when he will be in one of the first groups off the tee.
"It should be a little quicker," he said.
Woods finished tied for 32nd in last tournament at Augusta National after a final-round 69. Strangely enough, Woods said Augusta National is probably the easiest course he has played all year in terms of scoring.
"Seriously," Woods said. "Most of the golf courses I've played have been really difficult setups. ... Augusta was more wide open than pretty much any event I've played in so far this year."