Rusty Tiger Woods off to slow start after rain delay in Turkey
TIGER WOODS was unable to take advantage of ideal scoring conditions on the opening day of the Turkish Airlines Open as the world number one made an indifferent return to action.
Playing in his first competitive event for a month, the American sat through a three-hour delay for bad weather then reached one under par after 10 holes of his first round before play was called to a halt at 16:42 due to fading light in Antalya.
The 37-year-old controversially decided to skip a World Golf Championships event in China last week to play a challenge match against Rory McIlroy and participate in exhibitions and clinics.
And Woods looked particularly rusty from the tee on his first showing since helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup, finishing the day tied for 52nd in the 78-man field.
The 14-time Major winner missed a string of fairways and found himself six shots off a blistering pace set by Paul Casey, Darren Fichardt and Steve Webster.
Padraig Harrington was going well at three under after 16 holes while Shane Lowry was level in the clubhouse.
Lightning and heavy rain had delayed the opening round of the European Tour's penultimate event of the season, but once play eventually started the extra moisture led to receptive greens at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal.
Woods took advantage at the par-five first with a superb pitch to three feet for an opening birdie.
Followed by huge galleries at the first European Tour event to be played on Turkish soil, Woods had to work hard for his par at the third after inexcusably missing the fairway with an iron off the tee.
Having been fortunate to avoid water at both the fourth and fifth, he looked to be finding his stride when he struck his tee shot at the par-three eighth to the heart of the green and converted the 20 foot birdie putt.
But he handed the shot back at the next, and will need to improve measurably to contend in the $7m event.
While Woods struggled to find his rhythm on a day when just 10 of the 78-man field finished over par, England's former Ryder Cup star Casey had no such problems as he reached the green in two at the first and holed a lengthy eagle putt.
A 12-foot effort at the 11th completed a hat-trick of birdies, and by gaining another shot two holes later he took a share of the overnight lead on seven under par.
"I really thought you've got to get off to a quick one and I did exactly that," said Casey.
"It was foot flat to the floor today and just fire at the pins, take advantage of the soft conditions and see what happens."
His compatriot Webster birdied seven of the 12 holes he played on Thursday, with the 38-year-old in need of a strong showing to climb from 65th in the Race to Dubai into the top 60 who will contest next week's DP World Tour Championship.
At 50th in the standings Fichardt is one of the players Webster is hoping to catch, but the South African produced seven birdies and no dropped shots in his 14 holes.
Only 15 players were able to complete 18 holes, with Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen faring best of those that did with matching six under par rounds of 66.
In the battle to become European number one, Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson further enhanced his chances by reaching four under through 10 holes.
His nearest challenger in action this week is US Open champion Justin Rose, but the Englishman was only one under for the day and in deep trouble in trees down the 11th when play was suspended.
The first round will resume at 8am on Friday, with a planned redraw for round two scrapped in a bid to make up for lost time.