PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time in 16 appearances here dating to 1997, Tiger Woods opened The Players Championship with a round in the 60s.
His 5-under-par 67 during Thursday's opening round at TPC Sawgrass has him four strokes behind the course record-tying score of 9-under 63 by Roberto Castro and in a six-way tie for fourth place. Woods is a stroke behind Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson, who are tied for second.
It was Woods' best score here since the final round of the 2007 tournament when he tied for 37th.
"I thought I missed all the shots in the correct spots today and left myself some easier up-and-downs here,'' said Woods, who is playing for the first time since tying for fourth at the Masters. "Up-and-downs aren't really too easy around here, but I left myself some good spots where I had a little bit of greens to work with and I made a couple key putts here there and I really took care of the par 5s. I birdied all of them today, which is nice.''
It is perhaps the most obvious way to state Woods' success, but when he handles the par 5s as he did, he typically is in good shape.
And he managed his game well enough to give him decent chances to save pars -- except for the par-4 18th, where his 8-iron from 200 yards trickled over the green and down a slope, leaving him a difficult chip that he failed to get on the green.
The resulting bogey was his only 5 on the scorecard and kept him from posting a bogey-free round -- something he's now failed to do in 56 rounds at TPC Sawgrass.
"This is a tricky golf course,'' Woods said. "It doesn't take much to make a bogey around here. I think that's kind of what (designer) Pete (Dye) had intended, and I'm sure that most of the guys throughout their careers really haven't had too many other days that are spotless on their cards.''
Woods has struggled at this tournament through the years, winning only in 2001 -- when he was at the height of his game.
In 2000, Woods finished second to Hal Sutton before going on to a fifth-place finish at the Masters and consecutive major wins at the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. The following year, he won The Players Championship two weeks before capturing the Masters for his fourth consecutive major title.
Since that victory, Woods has just a single top 10 -- an eighth in 2009. Four times, he finished outside of the top 20, including a tie for 40th last year. He's also had two withdrawals here (2010, '11) because of injury.
"I feel pretty good,'' said the No. 1-ranked Woods, who has three victories in 2013, his last in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "I've had a good year so far, and I think this is a continuation of that.''