(CNN) -- Tiger Woods is nine shots off the pace after carding a bogey-filled two-over-par 74 in the opening round of the Quail Hollow Championship on Thursday.
The world number one was actually four-over-par at one stage, before recovering two shots on his back nine.
However, Woods still has a mountain to climb if he is to become competitive in the tournament, with the clubhouse lead being held by Bo Van Pelt, who posted a seven-under-par round of 65.
Kenny Perry is one adrift of Van Pelt on six-under with Colombia's Camilo Villegas two shots behind in third.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson, returning to the PGA Tour after his fourth grand slam triumph, opened with a solid round of 70.
But for Woods it was a very different story and he faces a struggle to make the halfway cut.
"I just didn't have it today. I didn't know whether I was going left or right. I kept trying to piece together a round to keep myself in the tournament," Woods told reporters.
The world number one is playing only his second tournament this year after damaging revelations about his private life.
He finished fourth at the Masters behind Mickeson where his volatile temper was often on display, but he kept himself in check in his opening round in North Carolina despite his erratic play.
"I try to be easy on myself but it can be hard," said Woods, who attracted a large gallery.
Meanwhile, Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez carded a seven-under-par round of 65 to lead the field by a single stroke after the first 18 holes of the Spanish Open.