"Unfortunately I warmed up that way. I was hitting the ball left on the range warming up," Woods said after his three-over 74 on a day of low scores at the rain-softened Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. "Couldn't quite get comfortable.

"Flipped it on one into the left rough off the tee. Made sure I didn't flip it on two. Hit a drive right. Basically it was a fight all day."

Woods, who has struggled to find his form after back surgery and another swing change, came to the course three shots off the pace. He finished the day nine shots from the leaders Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell.

Woods missed his first six fairways, but scrambled to seven successive pars, and kept hoping he could turn it around.

"I was waiting for the one moment, the one shot," he said. "I couldn't find it.

"I grinded my butt off to be even par through seven ... and I finally hit it on eight right in the middle of the fairway and flipped a nice high cut five-wood in there and (instead) hit a draw. I was dead back there compounding the problem."

Woods took a bogey at that par-five hole, double-bogeyed the par-three 11th and bogeyed 13. He rallied with a birdie at 16, the last player in the field to post a Saturday birdie, and another at 17, hitting his seven iron within seven inches.

After finding severe trouble far left off the tee at 18, Woods managed to escape with a bogey with a brilliant parachute lob to a tight pin. "I fought hard today. I made some sweet up and downs, hit some really good shots," Woods said.

"Thank God my short game is back."

Woods, whose world ranking has plummeted to 266th, has recorded three missed cuts, a withdrawal and just one top-25 finish in eight starts on the 2014-15 PGA Tour.

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