April 9, 2015 / 9:09 PM / 4 years ago

Woods battles early in Augusta return, seven shots back

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, coming back from a two-month layoff to get himself tournament ready, battled some erratic play to stand one over par midway through his opening round at the Masters on Thursday.

Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits from a sand trap onto the fourth green during first round play of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The former world number one, who plummeted to 111th in the world as he struggled following back surgery last year, offset two bogeys with birdies on the par-fives but floundered at the ninth.

The four-times Masters winner pulled his tee shot left and it ricocheted farther left off a tree and into the adjacent fairway. He whacked his next shot due right where it hit a tree and dropped down into the pine straw.

Woods bent his third shot around a tree and onto the green before two-putting for bogey to stand seven shots behind the early pacesetter.

Low scores were readily available thanks to soft greens at Augusta National Golf Club and 29 players were under par as Woods began the back nine on a warm, gentle day at Augusta.

The 39-year-old American, who missed last year’s Masters after surgery, three-putted the first hole for a bogey but balanced that with a birdie at the par-five second after a great approach shot to five feet.

He then failed to cash in at the short par-four third after a booming tee shot left him just short of the green at the 340-yard hole.

Choosing to chip rather than putt, Woods hit it strong and rolled some 15 feet by and two-putted for a disappointing par.

Woods then bogeyed the long par-three fourth after finding the front bunker. The 14-times major winner blasted out strong and took two to get down for another bogey.

A birdie at the par-five eighth got him back to level par.

But the American gave the stroke back at the ninth before making his way to the back nine and Amen Corner.

Editing by Frank Pingue

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