Tiger Woods had what he called ‘‘easily’’ his best round hitting the ball, and he didn’t even break par at the Honda Classic.
Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under-par 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.
‘‘When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, ‘Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,’ ’’ said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.
Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.
Woods had only one big blunder — a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt — in an otherwise stress-free round of 70. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.
‘‘It was very positive today,’’ Woods said. ‘‘It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.’’
It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water, and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.
Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double, and shot 72.
Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.
PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, and Morgan Hoffmann — who all live up the road in Jupiter — opened with 67s.
Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.
‘‘One bad hole,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the way it goes.’’
LPGA — Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club in Chonburi.
Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 for a one-shot lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.
Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.
European — Eddie Pepperell, Gregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under 65.
One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.