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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 early first-round round pace 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.
He got off to an erratic start, hitting just eight fairways and 12 greens and needing 28 putts in his 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 was in the clubhouse on 65, his seven-under effort including an eagle and six birdies -- including a stretch of four in a row from the fourth.
John Rollins was his closest pursuer in the clubhouse on 68, while Woods was joined on 69 by Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, Charley Hoffman, Nick Watney and Sean O'Hair.