Treatment table rather than the range beckons for sore Tiger
The US Masters champion is more susceptible to niggles in colder conditions
US golfer Tiger Woods reacts after finishing the 18th hole during the first round of the British Open. Photograph: Getty Images
The first inkling of discomfort came on the range, Tiger Woods gingerly massaged his back as he tried to ignore the squally showers and find a rhythm to take to the golf course for his afternoon tee time.
The cumulative effect of surgery has made the US Masters champion more susceptible to niggles in colder conditions, a point he referenced earlier in the week when he explained: “Unfortunately, dealing with the procedures I’ve had, and being a little bit older, it (his body) just doesn’t move quite as fast when it’s a little bit cooler.”
His first tee shot did little to assuage those misgivings, pulling an iron into the heavy rough, wincing as he did so. The facial expression was a catchall for pain and disappointment. The US Masters champion drew a difficult lie, came up short with his second and watched it trickle back into a bunker 40 yards short of the green.
He had warned also that his game wasn’t where it needed to be. “It’s not quite as sharp as I’d like to have it right now. My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it. I still need to shape the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds changing.”
It was a devilishly difficult third shot but the 15-time Major winner often thrives in adversity and managed to get up and down in stellar fashion. It was to prove the high watermark of his opening 15-holes, a progression over the Dunluce Links in which he leaked shots, seven in total, five bogeys and a double bogey before he was offered a sliver of solace.
It arrived rather unexpectedly a long range birdie putt at the 15th that he greeted in theatrical fashion by throwing his arms out wide, licking his finger and gesturing to chalk it down. The gallery lapped it up with a throaty roar, waiting some four hours to offer more than polite applause.
The disintegration of Wood’s round was a gradual affair, beginning on the fifth; it couldn’t be ascribed to one aspect of his game. He found trouble off the tee, pushed and pulled approaches into heavy greenside rough, bunkers or grassy swales from which he more often than not couldn’t escape without damage to the card.
Four shots escaped from the fifth through the seventh holes, two more on nine and 10, another on 14; his capacity to salvage pars while fighting an errant game, among his finest attributes, deserting him and while the 15th offered brief sanctuary in scoring terms, he conceded another shot to par on the final hole.
While waiting to complete the formalities with his playing partners, he arched his back, in search of some respite for what ailed him, the answer to which was confirmed in his post round thoughts. “I’m sore, yes. I’m sore.
“My warm-up wasn’t very good. I had a hard time moving. I was trying to piece together a swing that will get me around a golf course. And then all of a sudden I made probably one of the best pars you’ve ever seen on one. That was a pretty good start. But it was kind of downhill from there.
“I didn’t do much out there today. I hit a lot of missed shots, they were all left. Everything was off the heel and I was just trying to scrape it around. The best I could do was seven over.”
He was asked whether his backs issues were responsible for missing left. “No, I’m just not moving as well as I’d like. And unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it. I didn’t shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left-to-right and I wasn’t hitting it very solidly.”
He once again referenced the surgical procedures, getting older pointing out that he would have to accept the limitations. “One of the reasons why I’m playing fewer tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult. I’m not 24 anymore. Life changes, moves on. I can’t devote the hours to practice like I used to. Standing on the range, hitting balls for four or five hours, go play 36, come back, run four or five miles and then go to the gym. Those days are gone.”
The treatment table rather than the range beckoned as he sought solace.
First round scores from British Open at Portrush (British unless stated, (a) denotes amateurs, Par 71):
66 J.B. Holmes (USA)
67 Shane Lowry (Irl)
68 Alex Noren (Swe), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Webb Simpson (USA), Tony Finau (USA), Brooks Koepka (USA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Jon Rahm (Spa), Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Robert Macintyre, Tyrrell Hatton, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Lee Westwood
69 Sang Hyun Park (Kor), Justin Rose, Ashton Turner, Romain Langasque (Fra)
70 Andrew Putnam (USA), Charley Hoffman (USA), Yuki Inamori (Jpn), Branden Grace (Rsa), Patrick Cantlay (USA), Si Woo Kim (Kor), Eddie Pepperell, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Kevin Kisner (USA), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Rickie Fowler (USA), Jordan Spieth (USA), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Jason Day (Aus), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Rory Sabbatini (Svk), Callum Shinkwin, Matt Kuchar (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Cameron Smith (Aus), Russell Knox
71 Justin Harding (Rsa), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Darren Clarke (NIrl), Doc Redman (USA), Justin Thomas (USA), (a) James Sugrue (Irl), Ernie Els (Rsa), Mikumu Horikawa (Jpn), Sungjae Im (Kor), Patrick Reed (USA), Matthew Fitzpatrick
72 Inn-choon Hwang (Kor), Aaron Wise (USA), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Gunn Charoenkul (Tha), Yosuke Asaji (Jpn), Connor Syme, (a) Curtis Knipes, Corey Conners (Can), Lucas Glover (USA), Bubba Watson (USA), Brian Harman (USA), Dustin Johnson (USA), Abraham Ancer (Mex), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Paul Casey, Thomas Pieters (Bel), Nino Bertasio (Ita)
73 Andrew Johnston, Matt Wallace, Joost Luiten (Ned), Shaun Norris (Rsa), Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Oliver Wilson, Takumi Kanaya (a) (Jpn), Chez Reavie (USA), Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Prom Meesawat (Tha), Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Benjamin Hebert (Fra), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Luke List (USA), Brandon Wu (a) (USA), Chris Wood, Graeme McDowell (NIrl), Keegan Bradley (USA), Jim Furyk (USA), Andrea Pavan (Ita), Patton Kizzire (USA), Alexander Levy (Fra)
74 Francesco Molinari (Ita), Jason Kokrak (USA), Ryan Palmer (USA), Gary Woodland (USA), Adam Hadwin (Can), Danny Willett, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), David Lipsky (USA), Jimmy Walker (USA), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Kurt Kitayama (USA), Doyeob Mun (Kor), Xander Schauffele (USA), Zach Johnson (USA), Sung Kang (Kor), Stewart Cink (USA), Haotong Li (Chn), Brandt Snedeker (USA)
75 Adri Arnaus (Spa), Kyle Stanley (USA), Paul Waring, Nate Lashley (USA), Sam Locke, Tom Lewis, Chan Kim (USA), Paul Lawrie, Yoshinori Fujimoto (Jpn), Ian Poulter, Keith Mitchell (USA), Jack Senior, Austin Connelly (Can), Isidro Benitez (Mex), Pádraig Harrington (Irl)
76 Dong-kyu Jang (Kor), Andrew null Wilson, Jorge Campillo (Spa), (a) Matthias Schmid (Ger), Phil Mickelson (USA), Joel Dahmen (USA), Robert Rock, Andy Sullivan, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Jake McLeod (Aus), Billy Horschel (USA)
77 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Alexander Bjork (Swe), Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai), Kevin Streelman (USA)
78 Tiger Woods (USA), Adam Scott (Aus), Marc Leishman (Aus), Tom Lehman (USA), Matthew Baldwin, Richard Sterne (Rsa)
79 Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Garrick Porteous
82 Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa)
83 Shugo Imahira (Jpn), Dimitrios Papadatos (Aus), (a) Thomas Thurloway
90 David Duval (USA)