At last year's Farmers Insurance Open, Woods missed the cut, shooting a 4-over par 148 for two rounds.
He was steady, and at times spectacular. Second shot over 20 yards left and aggressive putt slid past hole, but made his three-footer back.
The South Course, which hosted the 2008 US Open that Woods won, typically is far stronger than the North at Torrey Pines. And for the first time in 29 months, a PGA Tour event will feature Tiger Woods on the weekend. Jon Rahm is one shot behind, poised to reach No. 1 in the world.
Tiger Woods is 1-over in his first three holes in the opening round of the Farmers Classic at Torrey Pines and already showing his frustration. When he finished it and the minor work it left, he had slogged through his last nine holes with four birdies, the kind of thing that can salvage a Friday.
He had a spinal fusion last April and made his comeback at the unofficial Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December.
Woods' first shot of the day was a drive on the 536-yard, par-5 No. 10 that went 65 yards left of the fairway.
Palmer recorded eagles on the 9th and 17th hole in a round that also included four birdies and three bogeys.
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Woods comes into Round 3 at 1-under.
Seventy-seven players were to begin the third round, with Ryan Palmer holding the lead after scoring 5-under 67 on the North Course to get to 11 under overall.
While Woods still searches for consistency, Palmer just needs to repeat what he's done over the first two rounds to earn his first PGA Tour win since 2010. I've been away from it for a very long time, so it's nice to get out there and compete. "I just want to keep progressing, keep playing tournaments". That's why he spent extra time during Tuesday's practice round and Wednesday's pro-am chipping and putting on and around each green.
"Yeah, I had the pulls early, " Woods said.
The tournament victory might be out of reach for Woods, but the importance of getting to play two more rounds in the heat of competition can not be underestimated as he tries to build up to the first major of the year, the Masters in April. While he hit only nine greens in regulation, Woods did a good job of minimizing the damage with a strong short game.
"Just unfortunate it happened, but I made a good putt, had a couple really good putts down the stretch and had a good finish", Rahm said. "I can do it at home and hit certain shots, but come out here in contention and my adrenaline goes up a little bit".
It's been almost five years, in fact, since Woods played for anything more important than a press with his buddies in South Florida; so it shouldn't exactly prompt a double-take that after so much time outside of the competitive fray, it's going to take a few rounds to rediscover that edge that made him the undisputed best of his generation.