Tiger Woods could barely have made a worse start, four-over-par after nine holes, before somewhat steadying the ship on the back nine at Liberty National. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

Tiger Woods struggled to a four-over-par 75 in the first round at the Northern Trust in New Jersey on Thursday, the latest indication that all is not well with the 15-time major champion’s surgically-fused spine.

Woods acknowledged as much on the eve of the first event of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs.

He could barely have made a worse start, four-over-par after nine holes, before somewhat steadying the ship on the back nine at Liberty National.

Since ending a decade-long major drought by winning the Masters four months ago, the 43-year-old Woods has barely played outside the majors, and has not impressed when he has competed.

Woods entered this week’s event ranked 28th on the FedEx Cup rankings.

Even if he misses the cut on Friday, he will be assured of advancing to next week’s BMW Championship, but not guaranteed a start in the season-ending Tour Championship, where he won last year in a rousing performance that set the stage for his Masters triumph.

Fellow American Troy Merritt plundered nine birdies in a nine-under 62 to take the early lead.

Reuters