Darren Clarke four-putted from inside 10 feet before mounting a brave fightback in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
The Ulsterman, 38, had a putting nightmare at the sixth when he took four stabs from nine feet five inches to run up a potentially disastrous, triple bogey eight.
He soared to five over par with five to play but hit back with birdies the 15th and 16th to post a three over par 73.
That still left him nine shots adrift of clubhouse leaders Tiger Woods and Vaughan Taylor, who opened up with six under par 64s at the Orlando venue.
And Clarke will need a sub-70 round today to be sure of avoiding his third cut from five strokeplay starts this year.
The day started ominously for the Ryder Cup hero when he missed a four foot par putt at the second.
And while he holed from five feet for birdie at the third to get back to level he was soon three over par after that four-putt on the 558-yard sixth.
After pushing his drive into a fairway bunker, Clarke left himself 172 yards to the green after a lay-up but dumped his approach in sand short of the green.
According to ShotLink - the PGA Tour's laser guided shot-tracking system - Clarke's sand shot to nine feet five inches gave him a chance of escaping with a par.
But he knocked his first putt three feet past the hole and then missed twice more from inside that distance to run up a nasty triple.
Predictably, he dropped another shot at the par-three seventh when he came up short of the green with his tee shot, chipped to six feet and missed again.
A birdie from six feet at the 10th got him back to three over but he tangled with the rough at the 11th to drop another shot and then crashed to five over with five to play with another bogey at the 13th.
A brave par save from seven feet at the 14th gave him a boost and he rallied to hole a 16 footer at the 15th and a three footer after a brilliant approach at the 16th to limit the damage.
Woods and Taylor were among the early starters at Bay Hill and finished two strokes clear of Europeans Sergio Garcia and Carl Pettersson, who fired four under par rounds of 66.