Eleven players were tied at 4 under, including defending Farmers champion Jon Rahm (South Course), who is coming off last week's playoff victory in the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Woods still has a lot of work to do. He was tied for 84th and needed to gain at least a stroke on the field in the second round to make the cut. He also faces a North Course that was once considered the meek brother to the South, but now seems to bloody just as many noses.
In the first round, the North played only about two-thirds of a stroke easier than the South. Of the 73 rounds under par on Thursday, more than half -- 41 -- came on the South.
"I didn't think there were going to be that many good scores out there," Woods said. "... There was no wind out there to give us any trouble. The greens are springy; they were bouncing a bit."
Woods' latest comeback was welcomed by several thousand fans who lined the entire first hole on a clear, chilly morning on the bluffs lining the Pacific Ocean. The gallery swelled as the round progressed, and there wasn't an open seat in the massive hospitality tents at the 18th green when Woods' group arrived.
Afterward, children who were not yet alive when Woods captured his last major championship in the '08 U.S. Open screamed loudly for his autograph. He obliged a few before heading off to the parking lot. Some tour youngsters on the putting green stopped their practice to watch Woods walk by.
"I thought it was incredible," Woods said of his reception. "They were into it, they were supportive. It was nice to come back to Southern California again. I miss it out here. I miss playing this golf course."
Woods played four strokes better on the South than he did last year, when he missed the cut for the first time in the tournament he has won seven times. He didn't play anywhere in 2016, and in '15 he withdrew with a back problem from the Farmers Open after playing only 11 holes on the North Course.
The 14-time major winner scattered three birdies and three bogeys in the round. He hit only 12 of the 18 greens and saved a few pars with deft chip shots, but also missed a 31/2-foot putt to bogey the par-5 13th -- statistically, the third-easiest hole on the South.
His iron play was shaky.