ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods closed his round with a clutch par putt at the last for a first-round 68 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and was one stroke off the early lead. Some observations from Day 1 at Bay Hill:
• When informed that Las Vegas had installed him as the betting favorite for next month’s Masters, Tiger rolled his eyes: “There's a lot of gamble-holics out there,” he said.
• Speaking of the Masters, Tiger was asked what he needs to clean up before the year’s first major: “Everything can be shored up a little bit.” No need for translation.
• What was otherwise a flawless round nearly came unraveled on the third hole, his 12th of the day, when Tiger fanned his 3-wood tee shot out-of-bounds right. Although Tiger didn’t seem pleased with the ruling, after his round he explained, “If you look at the two [fence] poles, I was OB.”
• Much was made of Tiger’s club-head speed last week at the Valspar Championship, when he recorded the year’s fastest on Saturday at 129.2 mph. He was a bit off that pace on Day 1 at Bay Hill, managing 119.2 mph on the ninth hole, but that still ranked third in the field when he completed his round.
• It was another cold start for Tiger on Thursday, with temperatures around 45 degrees when he teed off. In recent years that might be a concern for a player who has endured four back procedures. He clarified that his back is tight on cold mornings, but there is no pain. Good to know.
• Tiger and Jason Day have become close friends in recent years, but that hasn’t translated into an increased comfort level for the Australian. The two have been paired together in a Tour event nine times, but Day, who struggled to a 1-over 73 on Thursday, has broken par just twice alongside Woods.