(Reuters) – Tiger Woods made his FedExCup playoffs return on Thursday after a five-year absence and shot a mediocre level-par 71 in the first round of The Northern Trust to sit five shots behind the leaders in Paramus, New Jersey.
Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson carded 67s to lurk a shot off leaders Jamie Lovemark, Vaughn Taylor, Sean O’Hair and Kevin Tway on a day of fairly low scoring on the rain-soaked layout, where players were allowed preferred lies.
Justin Thomas, who won last year’s $10 million bonus as the FedExCup champion, carded a two-under 69.
Former world number one Woods, in his first start since a runner-up finish behind Koepka at the PGA Championship this month, mixed two birdies with two bogeys at Ridgewood Country Club as he continued a trend of so-so starts.
Woods, who has broken 70 in the opening round only twice in 15 events in 2018, said less-than-ideal yardages were to blame for his lack of precision with his approach shots.
“I kept having the half-club,” said the 14-times major champion, who might need another round of par or better on Friday to make the cut. “I just wasn’t quite hitting it close. I just didn’t quite have the feel to hit those really soft shots.”
Koepka, who also won this year’s U.S. Open, was rewarded for his typically aggressive approach off the tee. Starting on the back nine, the highlight of his round was an eagle at the par-five 17th.
At the 17th hole, Koepka picked up five strokes on playing companion Johnson, who ran up a triple bogey after a wild hook off the tee.
Joint leader Lovemark could hardly have wished for a better start with birdies at the first three holes.
The top 125 players in the FedExCup standings were eligible for the first of four playoff events that culminate with a 30-player field for the Sept. 20-23 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.