MEDINAH, Ill. – The only pain Tiger Woods felt Thursday at the BMW Championship was when he went to sign his scorecard.

On a day when most players were in the Diamond Lane rising to the top of the leaderboard as venerable Medinah Country Club was vulnerable after recent rains, Woods got stuck in the slow lane and got lost in the leaders’ rearview mirrors.

Woods put his signature to a pedestrian 1-under-par 71 on a day when nearly half the field was speeding along in the 60s. While breaking par was a victory for Woods after he was forced to withdraw from last week’s Northern Trust with an oblique strain, there was little to celebrate.

“Once I got on the golf course and felt how soft the greens were, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to make birdies,’” said Woods, who did make three in his first five holes but only one after that. “I didn’t feel any tightness in my oblique at all, so that was a positive, and I just need to clean up my rounds and get going. Seems like the whole field is under par. The golf course is soft. Even though it’s long, it’s just gettable.”

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But Woods didn’t get the best of Medinah and finished six shots behind pace-setters Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak, who each tied the course record of 65. Woods is one of five players who has shot the course record, doing so in the 2006 PGA Championship that he won.

But Woods could never get past 2 under in the first round. While he drove the ball with authority, he wasn’t sharp with short irons in his hands, three-putted once and didn’t have any short-game magic around the greens.

His lack of sharpness is the result of a Catch-22 situation for Woods. To be sharp, Woods needs reps. But his troublesome back has limited his ability to practice and lift and play as much as he needs to be sharp. Since he won the Masters in April – his fifth green jacket, 15th major in all and first since 2008 – he has played just 14 rounds and missed cuts in the PGA Championship and British Open.

On Wednesday, he hit balls for the first time since withdrawing last week.

On top of all of that, Woods is working on swing changes to alleviate back pain.

“I’m trying to make changes in my swing, and it’s just not quite there yet. And so, it’s just one of those things,” he said. “I need reps, and I just haven’t really put in a lot of reps. I’m trying to change my plane a little bit, trying to get back to how I kind of had it at Augusta. It was working pretty good there.

“But I made too many little mistakes around the greens. I had a three-putt and had a couple up-and-downs I should have made and missed a few putts I have been making, and I need to make them. As I said, the whole field seems like it’s under par, and we just didn’t do it today.”

Woods needs to finish 11th or better to earn enough points to be one of the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings heading to East Lake in Atlanta for next week’s season-ending Tour Championship. It was there last year that Woods won for the first time since 2013.

But Woods was in a tie for 51st when he left the grounds. He’s now projected in 47th place in the FedEx Cup standings.

“I’m going to have to make a lot of birdies,” Woods said of his upcoming three rounds. “There’s so many guys under par that I’m going to have to shoot some low rounds just to get back in it.”



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