Tiger Woods hits his tee shot at the 12th hole during the first round of the… (Robert Galbraith / Reuters )
Reporting from San Martin, Calif.
First came a two-footer that spun out.
Then came makable putts that never found the hole and longer ones that did not come close.
By the time Tiger Woods finished the first round at the Frys.com Open on Thursday, it all added up to what he called "probably one of the worst putting rounds I've ever had."
And that left the former No. 1 player a disheartening six strokes off the lead at two-over-par 73, still looking for a way to bounce back from two years of scandal, injury and mediocre golf.
"I started losing confidence in it because I wasn't hitting my line," he said of his performance on the greens. "So it was just a downward spiral."
The news gets even worse: If Woods cannot turn things around in Friday's second round, he could miss the cut against a field that includes only three players in the top-50 world rankings.
No one had it easy at CordeValle Golf Club, with its picturesque course cut into the hills south of San Jose. Alternating sunshine and rain made for increasingly difficult conditions as the day wore on.
A quartet of players — not exactly household names — held up well enough to tie for the first-round lead at four-under 67. One of them, Brendan Steele, explained: "You have to kind of check your ego and just hit whatever it's going to take."
Garrett Willis, Matt Bettencourt and Briny Baird were the others at 67.
The afternoon seemed a bit brighter for Patrick Cantlay, the UCLA sophomore who played in Woods' threesome.
Cantlay, who shot a 69, repeatedly deflected questions about how it felt to be 19 years old and defeat a golfing icon by four strokes. But he did show a smile after his round.
"It was fun," he said. "I had a good time out there and really enjoyed myself."
There were only frowns from Woods, playing for the first time since missing the cut at the PGA Championship. He got off to a good start with a birdie on the first hole and went downhill from there.
The second hole brought bunker trouble — another recurring theme for his day — and the third had that missed short putt. A ball that sailed into the tall grass on No. 12 resulted in a double bogey.
There was a late birdie and another chance to creep back with a 14-foot putt on the final hole. It missed by 17 inches.
If nothing else, Woods might figure that things can only get better when he tees off Friday. As he said: "I can't putt the ball any worse."