Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Tiger Woods discovered how tough Innisbrook can be in a swirling wind, and he was up to the task.
Woods smacked his hands into an oak as he let loose of the club during a bold escape from the trees, came within inches of an ace on the next hole, and most importantly was among 27 players — just under 20 percent of the field — to break par Thursday in the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.
Canadian rookie Corey Conners, who got into the field as an alternate not long after he failed to get through Monday qualifying, didn’t make a bogey until his final hole at No. 9 and shot a 4-under-par 67.
That gave him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney, Whee Kim, and Kelly Kraft. Only three other players, including former PGA champion Jimmy Walker, broke 70.
Woods made five birdies to counter his mistakes in his round of 70, the first time he broke par in the opening round of a PGA Tour event since his 64 in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015 — just six tour events ago because of back surgeries.
This was his first time playing the Valspar Championship, and it got his attention.
‘‘I enjoy when par is a good score. It’s a reward,’’ Woods said. ‘‘There are some tournaments when about four holes you don’t make a birdie, you feel like you’re behind. Today, made a couple of birdies, all of a sudden puts me fourth, fifth, right away. That’s how hard it is.’’
It was like for everybody, especially Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
Spieth, who won at Innisbrook in a playoff in 2015, didn’t make a birdie after the par-5 opening hole and shot a 76. Only six other players had a higher score. Rory McIlroy, who like Woods was making his debut in this event, played in the morning and shot 74.
Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth and Woods, also shot 74.
Woods is playing his fourth PGA Tour event since returning from fusion surgery on his lower back, his fourth surgery since the spring of 2014. He has shown steady progress, and this might have been his most steady performance, even with four bogeys. Those were inevitable.
European — Pablo Larrazabal awoke with a start, just 38 minutes before his tee-off time in the first round of the Indian Open in New Delhi.
He had a ‘‘10-second shower,’’ a wild car ride through the streets of Delhi, and hit just 10 balls on the range before dashing to his first hole, the 10th.
The Spanish golfer made nine birdies along with two bogeys and a double to shoot 5-under 67. Larrazabal was tied for second with Paul Peterson and Matteo Manassero, two shots behind Emiliano Grillo.
Larrazabal said his phone reverted to Spanish time overnight, meaning his alarm didn’t go off, and he needed a wake-up call by a European Tour official.
The first round was suspended because of bad light, with 24 players still to finish.
Clubhouse culture and team karma have changed for the better since Alex Cora arrived.Continue reading »
The MVP outfielder has already turned down long-term offers from the Red Sox but remains open to further discussions.Continue reading »
Red Sox are not the staff’s favorites to repeat as World Series champions.Continue reading »
White was 24 yards short of his mark, and Guy was three snaps short of his mark.Continue reading »
Despite a down 2018 season, Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies for an unfathomable 13 seasons.Continue reading »
Nobody compares to Trout. But what Betts is worth to the Red Sox is becoming clearer.Continue reading »
LaCosse has a former college teammate on the Patriots roster, one career TD, and a good chance of making the team.Continue reading »
If the 76ers win, it would all but dash the Celtics’ hopes of ascending to the No. 3 seed and it would lock them into the 4/5 series against the Pacers.Continue reading »
Sports Editor Matt Pepin offers a look of what’s to come this week.Continue reading »