Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the seventh hole Thursday during the first round of the WGC Cadillac Championship. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images / March 6, 2014)

DORAL, Fla. — It was only the first round Thursday, but the 68-player international field at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship got a taste of just how fearsome the new Blue Monster can be.

The opening day at Trump National Doral had strong, shifting winds, rain, a storm delay, a tornado watch and a suspension of play because of darkness.

As a result, there were plenty of birdies, but also plenty of bogeys, doubles and worse.

Only two threesomes completed 18 holes. The rest of the field returns to finish the round Friday morning.

Harris English elected to finish his 18th hole when the suspension was announced at 5:57 p.m. and shot 69. He was one of five players at three under par.

Also at three under were Jason Dufner, who had two holes to play; Hunter Mahan, who had four remaining; Francesco Molinari, who finished 13 holes; and Patrick Reed, who completed 11. Seven players were tied at two under.

Tiger Woods, who had to withdraw from the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday because of lower back spasms, said his back "felt good all day, even through the delay." He was two over through 10 holes.

Only five players had no bogeys. One of them was Molinari. Rory McIlroy, one under par through 14 holes, had five birdies and four bogeys. Brett Rumford took an 11 on his first hole, the par-five 10th.

"This golf course really starts to become difficult when you get winds and a storm front pushing through like we had today," Dufner said.

Dufner started with a par on No. 10 and birdied the next four holes, which were playing downwind, to go out in 32. He then birdied No. 1 before the approaching storm forced play to be halted at 2:22 p.m.

When play restarted at 4:46, Dufner bogeyed the second hole. A bogey at the seventh dropped him into a tie for the lead.

English, who hit 16 greens in regulation, went out in one-over 37 on the back, then birdied four holes on the front, including the par-three ninth, which he and his playing partners rushed to finish.

"We were pretty much running to the tee on nine," said English, who rolled in a 46-foot putt for the clubhouse lead. "We could see pretty well. It was getting really dark very quickly, but I wanted to finish the hole because it really changes the way you approach the day. Waking up and playing one hole at 8 in the morning and then waiting around for three or four hours for your tee time is tough to do."

English had not played the Blue Monster before this week, but he said that owner Donald Trump and designer Gil Hanse, who worked together to renovate the course, achieved their goal.

"I know Mr. Trump wanted a very tough test on the Blue Monster and I think that's what he's got," English said. "Especially with the wind today, it's very, very hard to hit it in the fairway. You can hit decent drives and I feel like if you miss it at all, you're going to be in a bunker, and it makes it very difficult from there."

That's what Dufner did on No. 7, hitting what he thought was an ideal drive, but it went into a fairway bunker with "no chance" of reaching the green. He pitched to six feet and missed the par putt by inches.

Next time, he said, he'll know better what to do. The new Blue Monster demands that players choose their shots wisely.

"In general, they have brought a lot of strategy into play," Dufner said. "This used to be a golf course where you grab your driver on every hole, swing for the fences and play from there. You can't get away with that here anymore.

"It's a tough, tough test. It's a much improved golf course. It's kind of got a major championship feel as far as strategy goes."

Mahan had four birdies and a bogey. He said one big difference is holes where he used to hit a wedge or a nine-iron now require a mid-iron or long iron.

"We are all learning where to hit it and learning the best place to play it from most of the fairways," Mahan said. "The first few days it wasn't blowing that hard. Today it was blowing so much harder. I was looking at my [yardage] book all day off the tee to figure out where I could hit it."

swaters@tribune.com