Tiger Woods faces a battle to make the halfway cut at the Quicken Loans National but he will be more than satisfied with his first competitive round since recovering from a microdiscectomy on his back.
The 14-time major winner was dead last among the players in action at one point but three birdies in his final six holes rescued his round and he eventually carded a three-over 74 at Congressional.
Before the late starters went out, Woods sat in tied-94th - seven strokes adrift of the early leader Ricky Barnes who fired a four-under 67.
Patrick Reed, a three-time PGA Tour winner who in the past has not been afraid to compare himself to Woods, was one back at minus three.
The attention was solely on the returning former world number one, though, as fans turned out in good numbers to welcome the legendary golfer back after his 12-week absence following surgery on a pinched nerve in his lower back just before the Masters.
Things did not go entirely to plan, however, as he opened with back-to-back bogeys at 10 and 11 - his first and second - before a birdie at the par-four 14th seemed to stem the tide.
It didn't, and he immediately gave that shot back before further bogeys at 17 and 18 saw him turn in four over.
Although he appeared to be in good spirits and pain free, his score went from bad to worse on his inward nine when a bogey at two - his 11th - was followed by yet another at the par-four third.
He does not have 14 major titles to his name and 79 PGA Tour wins out of sheer luck, though, and his final six holes provided his adoring followers with reasons to be optimistic that he may well make the weekend in Maryland.
A solid approach into the fourth green set up a birdie opportunity which he made the most of by canning it, before his shot of the day at the par-three seventh set up a four-foot birdie putt which he rolled in to get back to plus four.
A beautiful wedge shot into the eighth set up another birdie chance from a similar distance, which he again converted. His delighted following cheered as if it were 1997.
A par at the ninth following an errant tee shot saw him in the clubhouse after day one at three over, for a round of 74 on his competitive return.
Solid, if not spectacular, but his score was widely expected and is an indication that - although he unquestionably remains the sport's main attraction - fans are slowly beginning to accept he will never be the golfing powerhouse he was.
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