Chipping again plagues Woods in opening 73

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – For Tiger Woods, the start to 2015 looked a lot like the close of 2014.

Woods was erratic off the tee and dogged by chipping woes Thursday during his opening round of 2-over 73 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It left him nine shots off the early pace and marked Woods’ highest opening round of a PGA Tour season as a professional.

“I didn’t get into the mental rhythm of the round for a while,” Woods said. “It took a little time, and unfortunately I was making some bogeys through that stretch.”

After chunking several chips at the Hero World Challenge last month, Woods had asserted that his offseason work with swing coach Chris Como fixed any lingering concerns, but he again struggled around the greens Thursday at TPC Scottsdale.

Woods opted to use a 4-iron on multiple chips in lieu of a wedge, but the results were still erratic: some chips checked up short of the green, while others bounded past the hole. He built an early deficit with back-to-back bogeys to begin the round, and Woods was 4 over after four holes.

“I’m just having a hard time finding the bottom,” Woods said of his chipping. “Because of my old pattern, I was so steep on it that I have a new grind on my wedge and sometimes it’s hard to trust.”

A rare highlight came at the par-5 13th, where an accurate approach left a tap-in eagle. Woods also birdied No. 17 after driving the green at the par 4, and following the round he remained optimistic despite sitting on the wrong side of the projected cut line.

“I have been through it before. It’s not the first time I have gone through this,” he said. “It takes time. It’s just a frustrating thing where I just need to get through competitive rounds. I need to get rounds under my belt and get a feel for it.”