July 19, 2018

Tiger Ends Round 1 at The Open Championship At Even Par

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Calm and patient throughout, Tiger Woods plodded his way around Carnoustie Golf Links on Thursday and was rewarded with an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship.

He used only one driver on the demanding 7,400-yard links layout, sacrificing yardage for position on the rock-hard fairways to avoid penal bunkers and burns. For the most part, the strategy paid off.

Woods birdied three of the first 11 holes to climb up the leaderboard. But after a mostly stress-free front side, he shifted into full-grind mode on the tougher and windier back nine, hanging tough with several key par saves.

A three-time Open champion, Woods is tied for 32nd, five strokes behind early pacesetter Kevin Kisner, who posted a 5-under 66 early in the day.

Only 31 players in the field of 156 broke par. Nobody in the last 12 groups accomplished it.

“It played a little on the quick side and the ball was definitely rolling,” said Woods, who is competing for the claret jug for the first time since 2015. “I thought I played a very solid round.”

Making his 12th start of the year and 20th Open appearance, Woods teed off in the sixth-to-last pairing at 3:20 p.m. local time with Russell Knox of Scotland and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.

When he arrived at the first tee, Woods had two strips of KT tape on the back of his neck after sleeping poorly. He said his neck has been “bugging” him for a while.

“I’ve been taped up and bandaged up, just that you were able to see this one,” said Woods. “It’s no big deal.”

It didn’t seem to affect his play. After receiving a rousing ovation from the fans, many filling the grandstands at 6 a.m. to watch the first threesome start at 6:30 a.m., Woods drilled an iron down the dusty fairway, then lofted a wedge within seven feet of the back-right pin and buried the birdie putt.

He added another at the 415-yard par-4 fourth, nestling his approach five feet from the flag. Woods nearly another at the par-4 fifth, missing the green with his second, the ball settling in wispy rough. He judged the swale and slope perfectly, his lengthy uphill putt stopping one roll short of the cup.

Woods crushed his lone driver at the tight par-5 sixth and had a great chance to reach the green in two. But his second shot from 191 yards strayed into the front-left bunker, where he showed nice touch by blasting six feet above the hole but couldn’t convert his birdie attempt.

He parred the last three holes to turn in 2-under 34. Woods accomplished it with a great save at the par-4 ninth, where he laid back off the tee, leaving 244 yards, and pushed a 5-iron into the front-right bunker. He blasted to eight feet and drained the putt, pumping his right fist.

It was mostly a grind from there. An errant tee shot into a fairway bunker resulted in a bogey at the par-4 10th, but Woods rebounded immediately by pouring in a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th.

After saving par from just over the back of the green at the par-4 12th, he three-putted the par-3 13th, horseshoeing a three-footer that resulted in a bogey. Woods made another nice save at the par-4 14th, canning an eight-footer, but bogeyed the par-4 15th after scooting into a bunker off the tee.

Many consider the last three holes the toughest in golf, but Woods escaped with pars. At the 251-yard par-3 16th, which played the toughest on the day, he missed the green to right, but hit a delicate pitch and run into the slope that released six feet past the hole and made the putt. Woods hit four quality shots at the par-4 17th and 18th holes and two-putted each for pars.

On the day, he hit 11 of 15 fairways, 11 of 18 greens and used 29 putts.

Woods chose to be conservative off the tee due to the wind conditions.

“You can get on the wrong side of one of those knobs and the course is baked-out,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

Woods was even-par on the two par-5s but felt he squandered at least one shot.

“I had 8-irons into both of them,” said Woods.

Being paired with Woods was a first for Knox.

“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “He’s a person which I’ve seen on the range in the past, and I mean, he’s almost like a mythical figure.”

Woods has a quick turnaround. He tees off Friday at 10:20 a.m. local time (5:20 a.m. ET) with Matsuyama and Knox, and rain is in the forecast.