May 31, 2012

Par-5 play, putting power Woods to 2-under 70

Playing patient, mostly error-free golf, Tiger Woods opened with a 2-under-par 70 Thursday in the Memorial Tournament at warm and sunny Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. He sits four strokes behind the leader, Scott Stallings.

A four-time winner of the event, Tiger carded four birdies, 13 pars and a double bogey on the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout. Woods made several clutch par saves on the firm, speedy greens to keep his round going.

“I swung the club well today,” he said. “I was very consistent. I made some putts, which was good. Overall, it was a good, solid day.”

Woods hit 12 of 18 greens and nine of 14 fairways in regulation and used 28 putts.

After struggling on the par-5s in his previous three tournaments, Tiger turned it around Thursday, making birdies on three out of four.

“It was nice to actually play the par-5s under par for a change,” Woods said.

An early back-nine starter with Fred Couples and Bill Haas, Woods gave himself good birdie chances at Nos. 10 and 11 but was unable to capitalize. He missed a 13-footer at the par-4 10th, then failed to convert a 10-foot putt at the par-5 11th.

At the 184-yard, par-3 12th, played downhill over water, Woods wound up in the back bunker, then blasted to nine feet from the cup and made the par-saving putt.

“I was enough on the upslope that I could keep it from going in the water,” Woods said of his challenging second shot. “So I just tried to land it in the rough, which I did, and let it roll down there. I didn’t think I could keep it on the green.”

He saved par again from six feet at the par-4 13th, then two-putted the short-but-testy, par-4 14th from 28 feet.

Fighting allergy problems all day, Woods two-putted the par-5 15th hole for a birdie from 21 feet. At the 201-yard, par-3 16th, he drove into the right greenside bunker, knocked his second shot six feet from the hole and made the putt.

Tiger birdied the 478-yard, par-4 17th hole. After a good drive, he hit his approach shot from 179 yards to within 13 feet of the cup and sank the putt.

A poor tee shot led to a double bogey at the 444-yard, par-4 18th. Woods drove into one of a cluster of bunkers down the right side of the fairway, then hit his second shot from 158 yards left of the green. He chunked his third shot into a greenside bunker, blasted 11 feet from the cup and two-putted to make the turn in even-par 36.

On the front nine, Woods two-putted the par-4 first hole for a par from 15 feet. He made another nice par save at the 455-yard, par-4 second, where he missed the green to the left with his approach shot and got up and down, holing a six-foot putt.

After two-putt pars at Nos. 3 and 4, Woods came up just short of the 527-yard, par-5 fifth hole in two and easily two-putted for a birdie. Tiger drove into the right fairway bunker at the par-4 sixth, but hit a nice second shot over water to 15 feet from the pin and two-putted for a par.

At the 563-yard, par-5 seventh, Woods boomed a 308-yard drive that found the right rough, then hit his second shot from 255 yards into a right greenside bunker, 34 yards from the hole. Tiger hit a nice explosion shot eight feet past the cup and rolled in the birdie putt.

Woods gave himself another good birdie opportunity at the 193-yard, par-3 eighth hole, but two-putted from nine feet below the pin. At the par-4 ninth, his second shot missed the green long, but Tiger chipped to three feet and converted the par putt.

“I thought he played very well,” said Couples. “He played a really solid round of golf.”

Tiger draws a 1:05 p.m. ET starting time Friday on the first tee with Couples and Haas.

“You’re going to have to make some tough putts,” Woods said.

“There’s no two ways around it. These greens are at a pace where it’s hard to get the ball close. Over the next three days, hopefully I can play as well as I did today.”