• WGC-Cadillac Championship

Woods five back at storm-hit Doral

Bob Harig
March 7, 2014
Tiger Woods is five back - but there were no signs of his recent back troubles © Getty Images

There were 27 fans in the gallery when Tiger Woods teed off on the eighth hole Thursday, most other fans having long left Doral because of an afternoon downpour.

Those who left early didn't miss anything from the world's No.1 player.

Woods' abbreviated day at the Cadillac Championship ended after 10 holes, after rain interrupted play for nearly two-and-half hours and forced the first round into Friday because of darkness. His numbers: two bogeys, eight pars and maybe most newsworthy, no noticeable grimaces on account of the balky back that forced him to withdraw Sunday in the final round of the Honda Classic.

"My warm-up was good and I felt good all day, even through the delay," Woods said. "I'm ready to go back out tomorrow and play well."

His day ended with a bogey at the par-5 10th, and that left him five shots behind the overnight leaders, with Harris English the only one of those to actually finish the opening round. Of the 68 players who were on the course Thursday, only seven failed to make a single birdie.

Woods was one of them. Going back to the third round of the Honda, he has only one birdie in his last 26 holes.

Russell Henley, coming off a playoff win last week at the Honda Classic, made only one par in six holes on the back nine - two birdies, three bogeys. He was in the group at 2-under that included Masters champion Adam Scott, who is in the Nos. 1-2-3 group with Woods and Henrik Stenson.

Stenson might have hit the most memorable shot of the day - a cold shank from the middle of the second fairway that sailed at a 45-degree angle into bushes.

Scott has a chance to replace Woods at No.1 in the world if he wins this World Golf Championship and Woods finishes worse that fifth.

Rory McIlroy got off to a blazing start with four birdies in five holes, only to end the back nine with back-to-back bogeys with a long three-putt bogey and a tee shot on the 18th that caught the edge of the water and bounded into the hazard.

Woods will play 26 more holes Friday, weather-permitting.

"Should be a long day for all of us," Woods said.

But first, he'll have to do some rallying in the morning to avoid a rarity for him on the Blue Monster.

In 39 completed rounds so far for Woods at Doral, he has only shot over par three times. That includes a 73 in the final round in 2007 when he won the CA Championship.

"Hopefully, tomorrow I can get back out there in the morning, play well and work back to even par by the end of the first round," Woods said. "Then shoot a low one in the afternoon."

There was a sense that good things were coming for Woods when the horn blew to stop play at 2:22pm.

He left his first two birdie putts of the day short, scowled a bit on each of those opening holes, and did a bit of stretching while grabbing at the right side of his back after his drive on the par-4 third hole found the left side of the fairway.

Alas, no cause for concern.

His birdie try on that hole hit the back lip but wouldn't fall. His tee shot on the par-3 fourth left him somewhat exasperated, sailing long and leaving him saying "How the hell did it go that far?" as he walked back to his bag.

That led to his bogey, but he had birdie putts on five and and six - both missed - and then was in the fairway at seven when play was suspended because of rain.

Woods seemed in good spirits throughout, fist-tapping one fan after the sixth hole, chatting for a brief second with a volunteer as he walked off the seventh, smiling a bit as he stretched again on the eighth during a brief delay caused by Sergio Garcia needing a ruling in the group ahead.

So no birdies, but no back problems. In short, it could have been a lot worse.

"I felt a lot better today," Woods said.

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This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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