Tiger Woods score: Far too many mistakes lead to rough start at 2019 PGA Championship
Big Cat struggled to gain any traction in New York on Thursday
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- After not showing up for any practice at brawny Bethpage Black on Wednesday, Tiger Woods probably wishes he could have skipped the first round of the 2019 PGA Championship on Thursday as well. Woods shot a 2-over 72 that left him well back of the early lead in this season's second major championship.
It didn't start well, and it didn't end well either, but there was a crest in the middle that made you think really ridiculous things about Woods winning all four majors this season.
Woods opened with a double bogey at the 10th hole after a slightly off-line drive and notched another one on the par-3 17th after coming up short in the sand off the tee. Those two gaffes led to a 3-over 38 start on the back nine (he started at the 10th hole) before Tiger switched to the front nine and the tide turned.
It began with a blown drive way out to the right off the elevated first tee. Woods was among the trees and in the rough on the harsh dogleg right hole, but he was able to get up and down from there for a three. He made another three on the second hole after a tight approach. A three at the third for par led us to a fourth consecutive three at the par-5 fourth. Woods canned his 31-foot eagle putt after a heroic second from 220 yards away that just cleared the front edge of the green.
His fourth eagle of the season meant that -- in the time it took many New Yorkers to take their lunch break -- Woods went from outside the top 50 to T5 with five holes left to make more hay. The hay was not made as Woods stumbled home with those three bogeys. The first was a 5-footer on the 5th hole, the second an 8-footer on the 7th and the third was a 10-footer on the 8th. Woods closed with a par for the 72.
It was certainly not the cleanest round he's played this year, but that four-hole run he played in 4 under may have saved his tournament. It's not as if he was flailing before that. A few yards here pushed his tee ball on No. 10 into the rough (which is impossible to escape) and a few yards there saw him narrowly short on that 17th and plugged in the bunker. Woods often hollers "1 yard!" at his golf ball, and he needed two of them on Thursday to make a world of difference.
"I thought I hit a good drive at 10, I had no lie," said Woods. "[On] 17, I hit it up against the face and it plugs, and we get down there and there's no sand ... It was just bizarre. But I fought my way back around there, and unfortunately I just didn't keep it together at the end."
From tee to green, Woods was strong. He gained strokes on the field in that category but gave them back with his short game and putting. His 72 was slightly better than the field average, but "slightly better than the field average" is not going to get it done when you're chasing major No. 16.
Woods hasn't broken 70 in the first round all season, which has been an issue for him. This 72 is the worst first round number he's shot yet. He's 58th on the PGA Tour in Round 1 scoring but inside the top 35 in the other three rounds. The story of his season is also the story of his last major at Bethpage. Woods opened with a 74 at the 2009 U.S. Open in nasty weather but fired the last three rounds in the 60s to close the gap and finish in the top 10.
I thought coming in that anything at or around par was fine for Woods. This 72 is pushing the limit of that, but Woods is certainly not out of it. Unless his Thursday playing partner Brooks Koepka (63) runs away and hides (and he might!), Woods will have an opportunity to chase down the rest of the field over the next three days.
"[The course] changed quite a bit from when we played this morning to this afternoon," said Woods. "The greens got a lot faster. We'll see how it dries out over the next few days. I don't see them cutting the rough down so it's just going to place another premium on driving the ball in the fairway to get at some of these flags."
Thursday certainly wasn't the opener Woods wanted following that Masters win and heading to two venues where he's won majors before. The margin for error for Woods the rest of this week went from slim to none as he's already used up all his silly mistakes as the march for a second straight major win continues on Friday afternoon.
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