ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ second swing of the day found a watery grave in the burn in front of the first green. The next 73 swings – plus the penalty stroke – weren’t much better.
On a benign morning at the Old Course – where David Lingmerth shot 29 on the first nine holes and Dustin Johnson torched it for a 65 – Woods struggled with every facet of his game and shot 4-over 76. Before Thursday, Woods’ worst score as a pro here in the Open Championship was 73.
Seriously, nothing went well.
Woods hit a wedge shot poorly on the first hole that found water and hit a terrible 9-iron on the second that left him scratching his head. He hit irons off the tee and gave up massive yardage to playing competitor Jason Day, missed short putts and made a three-putt bogey on a par 5, which are the holes he overpowered for more than a decade. He made five bogeys and one birdie and is tied with 65-year-old Tom Watson.
Many around here consider this round worse than his opening-round 80 last month at the U.S. Open. That round was terrible, no doubt about it, but Chambers Bay was difficult and others weren’t exactly lighting it up. Besides, much wasn’t expected from Woods that week because of his terrible play two weeks earlier at the Memorial.
This was supposed to be different.
Woods played better at The Greenbrier two weeks ago and tied for 32nd. He believes he played well and says he came here with confidence that he would contend for another claret jug. Others weren’t so sure considering how easy Greenbrier played and the lack of top players in the field. At any rate, Woods got four more rounds under his belt that week, which is something he desperately needed.
The Old Course twice has been Woods’ playground with victories in 2000 and 2005. Good vibes from those two tournaments, coupled with a little more pep in his step had some believing this could be a week that Woods would play well. Not contend, but play well. The man who was out there Thursday did not appear to be ready to contend anytime soon. He looked completely uncomfortable, despite what he said was a great warm-up session on the practice range.
Yet, in Woods trademark tone, he refused to let himself believe that he shot himself out of this tournament.
“I’m so far back and the leaderboard is so bunched that in order for me to get in there by Sunday, I’m going to have to have the conditions tough and then obviously put together some really solid rounds,” Woods said.
That’s not going to happen. He may play better on Friday, but the round will have to be quite a bit under par in order to have the chance to even play on Sunday. Reality is, Woods is now a combined 21 over par in his last five major championship rounds.
Day had a front-row seat and found it all extremely difficult to watch.
“It’s a little unfortunate to see him struggle like this because, I mean, it’s just tough to see your idol struggle,” Day said.
“Today he was just struggling a little bit getting into the greens. He just wasn’t hitting it close enough. He made a few mental errors around the greens and then just tried to press from there. It’s just difficult to do.”