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After three-month layoff, Tiger Woods returns to action

Woods hits 74 at Quicken Loans National event

American returns ahead of British Open on July 17

CNN  — 

Tiger Woods is back – but it was a bit of a struggle after three months on the sidelines .

Woods, who had back surgery to repair a pinched nerve in March, carded a three-over-par 74 in Thursday’s opening round of the Quicken Loans National at the Congressional Country Club.

Only seven times since turning professional in 1996 has the American golf star opened a PGA Tour event with a worse score.

The 38-year-old is attempting to rebuild his game ahead of the third major of the season – next month’s British Open – after missing the Masters in April and this month’s U.S. Open.

“I think the hard part was just getting into the rhythm of playing competitively,” Woods told reporters.

“You play with your buddies all day for cash and stuff but it’s just not the same. It’s not the same as tournament golf, different level. Adrenaline is rushing and I hit the ball further out here than I do at home.

“It unfortunately took a while to get the feel for it. My feels were off.”

The last of Woods’ 14 major titles came at the 2008 U.S. Open, leaving him four behind Jack Nicklaus’ overall record.

The former world No. 1, now ranked fifth, has now missed six major championships through injury – his absence at Augusta was the first time he’d not been at the Masters since making his debut there as an amateur in 1995.

However, he said his back felt fine in his first round since the World Golf Championships event in Florida in March.

“I had no issues at all,” he said. “No twinges, no nothing. It felt fantastic.”

Woods has won the British Open three times, and the last of those came in 2006 at the host course of this year’s tournament – Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, where the action will tee off on July 17.

He bogeyed his first two holes at Congressional and dropped to last place in the field on six over par before three birdies in five holes gave his scorecard a healthier look, though he was eight shots behind first-round leader Greg Chalmers of Australia.

“I made so many little mistakes,” Woods said. “So I played a lot better than the score indicated, which is good.”

U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton was tied for fourth in a group including Patrick Reed – who won the WGC-Cadillac Championship where Woods last lined up.

Read: Tiger ‘excited’ by return to action