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Woods starts Honda Classic in slow lane with 71

Feb 27, 2014; Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA; Tiger Woods on the 12th tee at PGA National GC Champion Course. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA
Feb 27, 2014; Palm Beach Gardens, FL, USA; Tiger Woods on the 12th tee at PGA National GC Champion Course. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA

(Reuters) - Tiger Woods lamented inconsistent putting but it was his long game as much as his short stick that led to a mediocre one-over-par 71 in the first round of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, on Thursday.

Woods, in just his third tournament of the year, said he had trouble adapting to the slow greens on a day when he was left trailing in the wake of leader Rory McIlroy, who shot a bogey-free 63.

"I hit it probably good enough to shoot at least three or four lower than I did," the 14-times major champion told reporters after playing in relatively benign morning conditions at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.

"First four holes, I had good looks (at birdie putts) and didn't make any of them. I hit it good starting out, scrappy in the middle and good at the end."

World number one Woods, who is playing the Honda Classic for only the third time as a professional, said he had misread several putts after being "fooled" by the speed and grain of the greens.

But the reality is he did not give himself many realistic birdie opportunities. He hit 12 greens in regulation, certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but had only four birdie chances inside 10 feet, three of which he converted.

Woods, who is tied for 81st in a field of 144, will probably need to break par in the second round on Friday to make the halfway cut.

He began his round on the back nine and negotiated that without too many problems, a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th putting him at one under by the turn.

It was not until the par-four second, his 11th hole of the day, that he finally had a blemish on his card.

After a poor drive, he barely advanced his second shot, found a bunker with his third and was unable to get up and down from there en route to an ugly six. He then offset two birdies with two bogeys to end the day at one over.

The Honda Classic signals the start of Woods' serious preparation for the Apr. 10-13 Masters, and the greens at PGA National are vastly different to the slick, heavily contoured surfaces at Augusta National.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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