By Julian Linden
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - The security guards following Tiger Woods on Thursday never had cause for alarm. The only boos that rang out around the Quail Hollow course were chants of the first name of Boo Weekley, playing in a group behind the world number one.
The huge galleries that turned out to watch Woods play his first regular PGA Tour event since his fall from grace were the golfing faithful, just hoping to see some old magic rather than taunt him about his indiscretions.
For a brief moment, it seemed like old times. When he birdied his first hole, the crowd erupted and one fan yelled out "it's good to have you back, Tiger!"
Woods acknowledged his supporters with an approving nod but the overriding emotions he elicited from them for the rest of his round were groans and polite gasps of disappointments.
"It was a terrible day to begin with," he growled. "I just didn't have it today."
Woods carded a two-over-par 74, hardly disastrous and featuring four birdies. The problem was he also had four bogeys and a double bogey and his driving was so erratic he twice landed in the water and made a couple of excursions into the trees.
"I didn't hit the ball very good at all today. I had a two way miss with everything today. Two balls in the water, and pretty much struggled all day," he said.
After spending five months in self-imposed exile, no-one really expected Woods to be at his best so shortly after his return but his opening round at Hollow Quail was not even close.
Playing the back nine first with an early morning tee off time, Woods gave the early arrivals cause for hope when he birdied the par-five opening hole, but gave the shot back on his third hole when he came up short on his approach.
He was still even par after six holes before his game inexplicably fell apart and he double-bogeyed the par-three 17th, his eighth hole, when he drove into the water.
He bogeyed the next hole after finding a creek to go out in 39, then started with another bogey on the front nine.
"I was struggling so bad today, I didn't know which way I was going to go, whether I was going left or right," he said.
"I hit a bunch of balls left, I hit a bunch of balls right, hit a few down the middle, and that was about it."
Woods did pick up three birdies in his next seven holes but bogeyed the last when he selected the wrong iron and hit over the green to end a dismal day.
A perfectionist, he was brutal in his assessment of his play, but aware that only more time in tournaments will help him get back to his best.
The temptation to punish himself by spending the rest of the day on the practice range was dismissed without a second thought.
"I'm not going to the range today. (To) hell with it," he said.
(Editing by Alison Wildey)