Tiger Woods, chasing Rory McIlroy for golf's world No. 1 ranking, scrambled to a 69 on Thursday that left him four shots off the first-round lead of Justin Rose at Bay Hill.
Woods can overtake Northern Ireland's McIlroy atop the world rankings with a successful defence of his Bay Hill title. McIlroy isn't playing the event.
The 14-time major champion got off to an erratic start, hitting just eight fairways and 12 greens and needing 28 putts in a three-under-par first round of the $6.2 million US PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"I didn't drive it well, didn't hit my irons well and didn't control my distances or trajectory well," said Woods, a seven-time winner of this event.
But he countered his three bogeys with an eagle at the par-five 16th and four birdies, including three in a row from the par-five fourth.
Several key par saves included one at his opening hole, the 10th, where his approach from a bunker was long. He chipped to within three feet and made the putt.
"I certainly didn't play my best, but I got around and made a few good saves out there," he said.
England's Rose, playing alongside Woods, opened with a 65. His seven-under effort included an eagle and six birdies - including a stretch of four in a row from the fourth.
He had a two-shot lead over American John Huh, whose five-under 67 included six birdies.
American John Rollins and Brad Fritsch of Canada were tied on 68, while Woods was in a group of 10 players on 69 that also included Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen.