Tiger stumbles to opening 71, but he’s still the star attraction in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY — It was like De Niro messing up his lines. Adele singing off key. LeBron missing a dunk.

How else was one to feel when Tiger Woods, who was introduced on the first tee as "Tiger, Tiger, Tiger Woods," to a roaring crowd of admirers on a stage known as Club de Golf Chapultepec, sent his opening tee shot out of bounds in Thursday's first round of the Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.

With a 5-wood in his hands, no less. Then, after he nearly sent his second tee shot out of bounds, you wondered if a stand-in was swinging the club.

But the biggest lead in the golf universe, the man with 80 PGA Tour titles and 14 majors to his credit, who has turned this tournament on its head with his star power, knew the show must go on.

Bienvenido al Exatlón México Tiger Woods.

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An award-winning performance it was not, but at least Woods kept himself within shouting distance of the leading actors heading into Friday's second act.

"Yeah, got off to a bad start," Woods said in a post-round interview that was as short as it was brusque. "Got it going after a little bit there, made three (birdies) in a row. Couldn't make any birdies after that for some reason (he did make one more).

"It is what it is."

What it was was an even-par 71, a round that left Woods eight shots behind front-runner Rory McIlroy and still searching for answers to combat the thin air that resides 7,800 feet above sea level at Club de Golf Chapultepec.

Tiger Woods plays his shot from the 17th tee during the first round. (Photo11: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports)

It is a work in progress trying to dial in his distances, said Woods, who is playing in Mexico for the first time and playing at high altitude for the first time in 20 years. He's tinkered with his equipment since he arrived at the course Tuesday and likely will continue doing so throughout the remaining three days.

For even Tiger Woods has a hard time adjusting when he was hitting 5-irons 175 yards last week in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles and on Thursday hit a pitching wedge 205 yards.

He's also having a hard time shaping the flight of his shots like he normally does because the thin air decays the ability of the ball to spin.

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"A little bit different in the two weeks," Woods said. "Just try to get a feel for it. Uphill's playing way different than playing downhill without wind. It's a big difference playing downhill."

That was evident on the first hole, a downhill, par-4 of just 316 yards. Woods tried to cut the 5-wood but hooked it instead. After reteeing, he did the same thing. He nearly holed a bunker shot for bogey but tapped in for double.

"Hit both of them dead off the toe," Woods said. "It's just not going to cut when you hit it off the toe."

Woods will look to kick his game in gear in the second round. He remains optimistic he can make a run for the hardware, especially when the leaderboard is bunched. Eight shots is a tough ask to overcome, even with three rounds remaining, but Woods has done it before.

After Thursday's disappointment, Woods is eager to give a better showing, not only for the fans, but for himself.

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