Woods was unable to shake the troubles that led to a share of 46th place at Bay Hill last week, where his quest for a fifth straight victory at the event was sabotaged when he shot over par in three of the four rounds. Thursday at Sawgrass was no different.
The top player in the game stumbled early with a bogey at the par-5 second and dropped another shot with a bogey at the sixth. He countered with a birdie at the ninth but found trouble again with a bogey at the very next hole.
The 28-year-old's problems continued with a bogey at the 14th before his third shot landed within 10 feet of the hole at the par-5 16th. Woods drained the birdie putt but his progress was halted moments later at the infamous par- 3 17th.
Woods let his tee shot fly over the island green leaving a dismayed look on his face as the ball fell into the water.
He was able to get up and down for a bogey from the drop area, however, and avoided further disaster with a 14-foot par save at the last.
'Towards the end I made a few puts to keep me where I'm at right now,' said Woods.
With the Masters a few weeks away, Woods has now shot over par in each of his last four rounds.
'We've all been through it and it's just something that you have to keep fighting through,' said Woods. 'When it turns, it's great. But, you just have to keep plugging along, keep fighting and keep grinding it out.'
Scott on the other hand has no room to complain. The 23-year-old tied for third last week at Bay Hill for his third top-10 finish of the season.
'I've really turned my game around a little bit,' said Scott, who earned his first PGA Tour victory last year at the Deutsche Bank Championship. 'Not just this year, but from the second half last year, I played pretty solid. And it's just been steadily improving since then.'
The young Australian, whose swing has often been compared to that of Woods, caught fire on the front side with five birdies over his first nine holes.
Scott ran home a 30-foot putt for a birdie at the 12th but gave that shot back with a bogey at the 15th.
He recovered with a birdie at the very next hole and dropped a 9-iron inside three feet for a birdie at the last to secure sole possession of the opening-round lead.
'It was a perfect morning this morning,' said Scott. 'Any morning tee time that you've got in the first two days, it's always good to take advantage of it.'
Duffy Waldorf also played in the morning and got to 7-under on his round with an eagle at the par-5 16th.
Waldorf was unlucky at the 17th, however, and found the water en route to a double-bogey. He followed with a birdie on the closing hole to join Kevin Sutherland in a tie for second at 6-under-par 66.
'From what I could tell it landed about pin-high but in the fringe, and took a big hop and went over,' Waldorf said of his tee shot on 17. 'Pin-high is probably not good with the pin in the back, so that was too far. I wasn't trying to land it pin-high, I was trying to land it five or six yards short.'
K.J. Choi, Thomas Bjorn and Bob Burns were two shots off the lead at 5-under-par 67.
Ernie Els carded a 4-under 68 that featured a chip-in birdie at the ninth to join Padraig Harrington, Scott Verplank, Sergio Garcia and Brandt Jobe in a tie for seventh.
John Daly, Kenny Perry, Jerry Kelly, Jeff Sluman, Alex Cejka, Bob Tway, Steve Elkington and Frank Lickliter II were one shot further back at 3-under-par 69.
Defending champion Davis Love III had an atrocious start to his round with three bogeys and a double-bogey over his first four holes. Love added a bogey at the sixth before picking up his lone birdie of the day at the ninth en route to a round of 77.
'If you can get back to even par before the weekend, you probably have a chance,' said Love.