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Bo Van Pelt leads, Tiger Woods struggles

Tiger Woods delivered a few memorable shots Thursday at Quail Hollow, hitting two tee shots in the water and shooting a 2-over-par 74.

He hit a tee shot into the water on the par-3 17th that produced little reaction except to hold out his hand for another ball. He hit his next tee shot into the water and had to scramble for bogey.

Woods was nine shots behind Bo Van Pelt and he ended his streak of 21 straight rounds at par or better.

“I hit a bunch of balls left, I hit a bunch of balls right, hit a few down the middle,” Woods said. “And that was about it.”

For everyone else—Masters champion Phil Mickelson included with his 70— there was so much more.

Mickelson had a severe stomach ailment that forced him to withdraw from the pro-am Wednesday, and he started feeling it when he climbed the steep hill to the 15th green. He two-putted for birdie to reach 4 under for his round, only to three-putt from the fringe on the 17th and made another bogey from the trees on the 18th.

“I may have run out of energy there toward the end, but I hit some good shots and was able to shoot a decent round,” Mickelson said.

Van Pelt is using an old putter that he had refurbished, and he already got strong results in Hilton Head two weeks ago with a tie for third, his best finish of the year. The opening round of the Quail Hollow Championship was even better, as Van Pelt made birdie on all the par 5s and made it through the tough closing stretch with all pars.

Kenny Perry shot a 66 and didn’t let the finish ruin his day. After a flawless shot into 8 feet for eagle on the par-5 seventh, he hit his drive 35 yards short of the green on the par-4 eighth and had an open angle at the pin. But he didn’t commit to the delicate wedge, and the ball rolled back to his feet. That turned potential birdie—and the outright lead—into a bogey.

Camilo Villegas played bogey-free for a 67, while the group at 68 featured a collection of players that included former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Monday qualifier Billy Mayfair and Brad Faxon, who has made only two cuts this year while spending time working for NBC Sports.

Woods hasn’t played enough to detect any trends, although this would count as a step backward with his golf. He was coming off a tie for fourth in the Masters, his first competition in five months, in which he broke par all four rounds for the first time at Augusta National.

In his second tournament since his hiatus from being caught in a web of infidelity—the first one with tickets available to the general public—the applause was loud and genuine, with nothing remotely close to heckling.

It was his highest opening round at a regular PGA Tour event since he shot 75 at The Players Championship three years ago.

The world’s No. 1 player returns Friday with hopes of sticking around. It has been five years since he missed a cut in a regular PGA Tour event.

This is the first tournament for Woods with open ticket sales, and while the gallery is always strong enough to make this tournament feel close to a major, it sold out quickly after Woods announced he would play.

Woods kept his head down, even after a few of his good shots. He was asked after the round if it was therapeutic to at least be out among so much positive energy.

“I’ll tell you what, I would like to say ‘Yes,”’ Woods said. “I was struggling so bad today, I didn’t know which way I was going to go, whether I was going left or right. I didn’t really hear much, to be honest with you. I was struggling so bad out there.”

Scores

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