Big Three Dont Deliver


San Diego--Tiger Woods three-putted the par 5 18th hole Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open to finish with a 72.
It was only his second three-putt in his last 126 holes at Torrey Pines South.
The 72 was one over par.
Of his 64 PGA TOUR victories, only two have occurred when Woods failed to shoot par or better on the first day.
You can imagine Tiger, playing in his first competition since left knee surgery two days after The Masters in early April, wasnt feeling especially chipper after the round.
And you can imagine the figurative rain his day dumped on the parade the grouping of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott was supposed to be.
Mickelson scrambled on the back side for a 71. Scott struggled to a 73. These same three will play together Friday afternoon. Only now they will be chasing the lead score of 3-under par.
Heres a verbatim excerpt from Tigers post-round press conference:
Q: Feeling anything now with it (the knee)?
A: Um-hum.
Q: Was the knee bothering you at all during the round? Can you talk about that?
A: Its a little sore.
Q: How different is it than before the surgery, say going into Augusta.
A: No, two, two totally different pains. Augusta was a lot different than this one.
Q: Have you felt any pain like that in your preparation?
A: Yes.
Q: So you kind of knew what to expect coming in?
A: Yeah.
And so it went.
Woods day began with a slap-in-face double bogey on the first hole that resulted from a hooked drive into the left rough followed by a chip back to the fairway, a short iron over the green, a chip to five feet and two putts.
You couldnt ask for a worse start, Woods said. And the three putt on the last wasnt so god either.
In between Woods made birdies on four, eight, and nine. He carded wonderful par saves on 12, 13 and 15. A pulled stinger 3-wood into the left bunker on 14 led to a double there.
Then Woods realized that maybe it hadnt been so bad after all.
To make two double bogeys and a three-putt and only be four back, he said, thats a great position to be in, because I know I can clean that up tomorrow.
The big question at the moment: How will the knee feel Friday? Will soreness and/or stiffness settle in? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile Scotts problem was a broken bone in his right hand that had prevented him from doing the kind of preparation he had wanted prior to this week. He confirmed that the accident took place in London the night of the Champions League final in Russia.
A friend, he said, slammed my hand in the door.
Maybe, one wag suggested, he needs some new friends.
Mickelson, who grew up in San Diego, had plenty of friends in the huge gallery that followed this marquis grouping. But none of them were much help when he bogeyed Nos. 5, 6 and 7. The Thrill rallied on the back, birdieing both the par 5s despite the odd decision not to carry a driver in his bag.
For the record, this is a guy who once carried two drivers at The Masters and routinely sticks five wedges into his bag if he thinks he needs them.
I dont really want to hit it past 300 yards on the par 4s because it starts running into the rough, he explained. So he used his 3-wood or his hybrid off the tee all day long.
To his credit, Mickelson admitted he ruined his own game plan by making too many loose swings that left him playing too many second shots out of the rough. Short and crooked, he said.
But Mickelson clearly finished with more momentum than Woods or Scott. And at the end of the round, he had straightened his problems off the tee.
So there you have it. The USGA had a great idea placing the worlds three top-ranked players in the same group. But nobody really ever should have expected an abundance of fireworks.
This is, after-all, a U.S. Open set-up. Two of the protagonists are trying to play their way back into shape in a hurry. And it was, after all, only Thursday.
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