Tiger Woods roars to PGA Championship lead

By Associated PressAugust 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Tiger Woods was twirling his club, not tossing them at his bag in disgust. Putts that grazed the edge of the hole and caused him so much angst were for birdie, not par or worse.
 
Woods had no complaints Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship.
 
The only concerns might come from the guys chasing him.
 
Woods played bogey-free at Hazeltine National for a 5-under 67, building a one-shot lead over defending champion Padraig Harrington for an ideal start as he tries to capture a major in his last chance this year.
 
Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship
Tiger Woods got off to a solid start at Hazeltine.(Getty Images)
Not since Carnoustie two years ago has Woods managed to break 70 in the opening round of a major. Not since St. Andrews four years ago has he had the lead to himself after the first round.
 
More telling was a scorecard without a blemish.
 
It was the only the third time that Woods has opened a major with a bogey-free round ' the other two were at the U.S. Open and British Open in 2000, which he won by a combined 23 shots.
 
It was a very positive start, Woods said. When Im playing well, I usually dont make that many mistakes.
 
Harrington, who lost a three-shot lead to Woods in the final round at Firestone on Sunday, stayed with him through the steamy, breezy morning until a bunker shot on the par-5 seventh was too strong and he had to settle for par.
 
The intensity from the final round was missing. Both are experienced enough to know that Thursday at a major is all about position, and they chatted frequently during their five hours at Hazeltine.
 
Even so, Harrington took notice.
 
Theres a factor that Tiger is 5-under par and looks like hes playing well, and looks like he could move away, Harrington said. And key will be, obviously is hes moving away, to make sure Im moving with him. It was tough on Sunday with me getting a three-shot start. I dont want to give him a three-shot start.
 
Phil Mickelson struggled off the tee and with his short putts in his round of 74.
 
In the traditional group of major champions this year, Lucas Glover was the only one to break par with a 71. Masters champion Angel Cabrera had a 76, while British Open winner Stewart Cink had two double bogeys in his round of 73.
 
Woods and Harrington, the winners of the last three PGAs, played in the morning when the greens were relatively smooth and the wind had only just begun to swirl through these tree-lined fairways.
 
Equally impressive was a pair of other past PGA champions ' Vijay Singh and David Toms ' who were at 69 while playing in the afternoon, and should get the best conditions in the second round. Singh hit his best shot around the trees and into the sun, not seeing that it spun back an inch or two from the hole at No. 16.
 
Others who had a 69 from the morning batch were Robert Allenby and Alvaro Quiros, the big-hitter from Spain who hit driver off the deck on the 606-yard 11th hole ' into a breeze ' that bounded onto the green while Woods, Harrington and Rich Beem were putting.
 
Woods looked back at Quiros and smiled, giving him a thumbs-up.
 
Thats just stupid long, Woods said. Its just absolutely phenomenal. I used to be able to move the ball ' not anymore. I just plod my way around, shoot 67.
 
This wasnt a memorable round, rather an efficient one.
 
Woods missed only two fairways ' he hit driver on six holes ' and three greens. He only twice came close to making bogey, on the 18th and first holes, and saved par with 6-foot putts.
 
He looked nothing like the guy who was slamming clubs and looking for a lost ball at Turnberry last month in the British Open, when he missed the cut in a major for only the second time in his career. Woods had a chance to expand his lead with birdie putts of 12 and 15 feet on the last two holes that burned the lip.
 
Woods atop the leaderboard can be daunting going into Sunday, not so much after one round.
 
His record with at least a share of the lead through 18 holes is only 13-11 on the PGA Tour, including 4-2 in the majors. Even so, he has won the last four majors from this positions.
 
That was only a bonus.
 
Something Ive always believe in is just keep yourself around, Woods said. You dont have to be eight ahead after the first round. Just got to keep plodding along. Major championship are set up so theyre difficult. They beat you into making mistakes. And the whole idea is not to make many mistakes.
 
A few tees were moved forward to account for the wind. Even so, Hazeltine played 7,660 yards from the tee to the hole, and Woods made some of his best birdies with long clubs. He opened his scoring with a 3-iron to 20 feet at No. 12, and picked up three birdies on the par 5s, including a 3-wood to a back bunker of the 651-yard 15th, with a breeze at his back.
 
He took the outright lead on the par-5 seventh with a 349-yard tee shot, followed by a 6-iron to 30 feet.
 
Hes human, Allenby said. And the golf course is in front of all of us. And obviously, hes the best in the world, so we expect him to win, because hes the best. He should. But you know what? Its three more days to go. And a lot can happen.
 
Woods knows better than most that the tournament is far from over. He was atop the leaderboard at consecutive majors in 1998 after the opening round and watched someone else hoist the trophy.
 
Still, it was a powerful start.
 
Theres a lot of guys out here that can hang with him when theyre playing their best, Rory McIlroy said after a 71. But the thing is, Tiger plays his best most of the time. And even when he doesnt play his best, he usually wins.
 
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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

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    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

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    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

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    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.