LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The best stat of Tiger Woods’ round? Zero winces.
That’s really the only positive news. Other than that Woods made four bogeys and only one birdie during the opening round of the PGA Championship and shot 3-over 74. In Woods’ 79 career victories on the PGA Tour, he’s never shot a score worse than 2 over in the first round.
“It wasn’t very good,” Woods said. “A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole. … I had plenty of looks to turn my round around and then post something even par, even under par.”
Expectations are always going to be massive for Woods, but, truly, it was impossible to know how he was going to play Thursday at Valhalla. Only four days ago he was wheeled off Firestone with back pain seemingly so severe that it was difficult for him to take off his shoes.
But Woods arrived here for a topsy-turvy Wednesday practice round and deemed himself pain-free and fit, believing he could contend. He arrived on the 10th tee Thursday morning to begin his round with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington after a long warm-up session on the practice range.
Nothing was especially sharp for Woods. He made bogey on two of the first five holes – the tee shot on the par-3 11th sailed long right, and the tee shot on the par-3 14th was a fore left.
Even Woods’ lone birdie of the day was unexpected. He hit a poor approach into the 16th green, missing short and left, but he chipped in for the day’s only highlight.
After making the turn at 1 over par, Woods hit driver left off the tee on Nos. 1 and 2 and both times it led to bogey. On the par-5 seventh hole, Woods hit his tee shot so unbelievably right that he got a free drop because it hit a temporary immovable obstruction. Even still, he missed a 7-footer for birdie and settled for par.
Woods hit eight of 14 fairways, 10 of 18 greens and took 30 putts.
After the round was over, Woods said he was still pain-free and that he was only experiencing a little stiffness in his back. He skipped a session on the practice range and opted for treatment to make sure his back is ready for Round 2, which must be miles better if he plans to advance to the weekend.
“If I get under par for two rounds, that will be right in the ball game,” he said.