Tiger Woods well adrift at US PGA after topsy-turvy first round
Masters champion had two double-bogeys on his front nine en route to two-over-par 72
Tiger Woods on the 17th hole during the first round of the US PGA Championship Bethpage Black. Photograph: Brad Penner-USA Today Sports
The rumour mill didn’t get to spin too long. A bit like a game of Chinese whispers which gathered legs, someone told someone who told someone that Tiger Woods was a doubtful starter in this 101st edition of the US PGA Championship, all fuelled by his absence from Wednesday’s final practice.
And, yes, it transpired that Woods was sick that day; but not that sick, certainly not enough to keep him away when the time came to put a scorecard back in hand. Those allergies again? “No. I wasn’t feeling that good (on Wednesday), so I decided to stay home and rest. I got a little bit sick.”
Come the time, though, Woods – winner of the Masters last month – was up early, in darkness, as is his norm, and one of the first players to appear on the range and later onto the putting green. End of the no-show rumours for the mongers.
Yet, the nature of Woods’s round, his first competitive round in 33 days since he had that green jacket of his 15th career Major placed over his shoulders, was one that would have made anyone dizzy. It had more turns than the swamp road that meanders its way through this Bethpage estate, his opening hole double-bogey providing an immediate speedbump that required all of his experience to steady matters.
Woods, in fact, suffered two double-bogeys on his front nine. The last time he did was at the 2011 US PGA, where he missed the cut. This time, however, Woods – who suffered his first double on the 10th (his opening hole) after driving into rough, then another on the par 3 17th where his tee shot found a greenside bunker – recovered to get under par at one point: back-to-back birdies on the first and second, followed by a superb eagle three on the fourth, got him to one-under.
But the speedbumps came thick and fast on the inward journey, as he suffered three bogeys – on the fifth, seventh and eighth – to ultimately sign for a two-over-par 72.
“I fought my way back and unfortunately I just didn’t keep it together at the end. It wasn’t as clean as I’d like to have it, for sure,” remarked Woods. “I felt like it’s not that hard to make bogeys out here, but it’s hard to make birdies.”
If Woods is to get back into the mix, he’ll have to do it the hard way. Already nine shots adrift of Brooks Koepka, he remarked: “We’ll see what the golf course offers up. It changed quite a bit from when we played this morning to this afternoon. 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.”