Woods struggles on return

Tiger Woods’ return to action after back surgery did not go exactly to plan as the world number five could manage only a three over par 74 in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National at Bethesda.

Woods struggles on return

The 14-time Major winner, playing his first event since undergoing a microdiscectomy in late March, struggled from the off and only a late flourish pulled things back.

However, he was still seven shots off the early lead set by Ricky Barnes.

Beginning on the back nine, Woods found the back bunker at the par three and missed a 15-foot putt for bogey.

His first drive of the day, which, pre-tournament, he admitted was the biggest issue in his recovery, found the middle of the fairway but it was his putting which let him down as a 40-foot birdie attempt travelled only half that distance and he bogeyed again.

Woods’ first birdie came at the 467-yard 14th, where he nailed a three-wood to within 10 feet, but he gave that shot back at the next with a poor drive into the left rough.

A five-foot birdie putt at the next lipped out and he three-putted the 17th for another bogey and dropped another at the 18th as he turned four over.

After back-to-back bogeys at the second and third to leave him six over, Woods hit his 198-yard approach to four feet for birdie at the fourth and holed putts from similar distances at seven and eight to get back to three over.

Meanwhile, Michae Hoey and Shane Lowry admitted after dealing with the expectations, distractions and demands at last week’s Irish Open it was back to business as usual on day one of the BMW International Open in Cologne.

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello and playing partner England’s Danny Willett enjoy a two shot lead after eight under par 64s on the Gut Larcenhof course where Willett broke through two years ago to win a maiden Tour title.

Seven players, including Hoey and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, who has been in bed for two days with a heavy fever, share third place on six under par.

“It was a pretty solid round apart from a few tee shots and I probably should have finished on seven under as I messed-up coming in. However, I am happy to take 66,” said Hoey.

“It was very much like last week’s Irish Open where you had to keep holing some important par putts and I managed to do that in what is one of my best starts around here.”

Hoey explained: “After all the demand and hype around the Irish last week in Fota it’s like back to normal this week.

“Of course, in saying that last week for me was like playing in a Major given the crowds and all the hype so that’s good to put yourself through that.”

Lowry capped his round of 67 with a fourth hole eagle, where he landed a 240-yard 5-wood second shot to just two feet in a round of five birdies and just two bogeys.

“I just played lovely today and a 67 is the worst score I could have shot and it’s good to bounce back well especially after missing the cut last week by a shot,” he said.

“And I mean this in the nicest possible way, but this week is like a breath of fresh air as I am here on my own and just getting about doing my own thing.

“But then I love the Irish Open and I was just really, really annoyed with myself missing the cut at Fota Island last week but thankfully I got out there today and managed to shoot five under.”

Mount Juliet’s Kevin Phelan is just a stroke back with a round of 68 while Damien McGrane signed for a 69 and European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley eagled the seventh hole in a round of a level par 72.

Reigning Irish Open winner Mikko Ilonen is already well-placed and inside the top-20 alongside Phelan after shooting four under par 68.

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