(CNN) -- It was another bad day at the office for Tiger Woods as he shot a two-over-par 74 in his opening round at the Players Championship Thursday.
The US PGA event, often referred to as the "fifth major," is worth a cool $9.5 million but Woods is unlikely to taste any of that bounty having already fallen nine shots off leaders Ian Poulter and Martin Laird.
World number seven Woods, a 14-time major champion who still dreams of breaking Jack Nicklaus' record of 18, endured a torrid time as he seeks to return to the consistency that made him virtually unbeatable a few years back.
The 36-year-old broke a 17-month drought in March with victory at Bay Hill but came to TPC Sawgrass -- where his only win was back in 2001 -- in poor form having missed the cut at Quail Hollow, only the eighth time that has happened in his career.
But after another bad opening round Woods may well miss the cut again.
"It wasn't certainly the most positive start," Woods told reporters.
"Any kind of momentum that I would build, I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole. Just one of those days.
"I didn't get a lot out of that round. I just didn't score. I hit decent shots in there and just got some of the worst lies."
Woods had claimed before Quail Hollow that he had put his problem swing behind him and was slowly building back towards something approaching his best.
"Just be patient with it. Just keep plugging along," he said.
"In the last few months, I've put together some good rounds, won a couple tournaments, so it's there. I just need to continue doing it."
Meanwhile the man who was once lambasted for suggesting -- while Woods was at the peak of his powers and seemingly untouchable -- that he could one day challenge golf's most enigmatic player is leading the tournament.
Poulter shot a magnificent seven-under 65, dropping just one shot the entire round.
"It felt real solid," the Englishman told the PGA's official website.
"I got off to a nice start, hit a few good shots early on ... then four birdies in a row from nine."
And the secret of Poulter's round? According to the Englishman it was to play less golf.
"I've been busy at home, new house to move in to, stuff to occupy my mind," he explained.
"And when I haven't been (moving house), I've been hitting some balls ... My time on the range has been a small but concentrated effort."
Poulter was joined at the top by Scotland's Martin Laird, who also birdied the notoriously difficult "island" par-three 17th hole -- which cost two-time major champion Angel Cabrera nine shots on Thursday.
Laird,, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour whose last victory came at Bay Hill in 2011, completed a flawless round to be one shot clear of American Blake Adams.
Compatriots Kevin Na and Ben Crane both finished with five-under 67s, while Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas, Ben Curtis and Australia's Adam Scott were in a group of 11 players on 68.