May 31, 2018

Tiger Finishes Round 1 At Even Par

DUBLIN, OhioFive-time winner Tiger Woods overcame a stiff back and rocky start to post an even-par 72 on Thursday in the first round of the Memorial Tournament.

Making his 16th start at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Woods struggled during warm-ups and slipped to 4-over par through seven holes. But he made a few tweaks and loosened up, playing the last 11 holes in 4-under.

“It just happens,” said Woods. “I wasn’t feeling that well and just had to make a few adjustments and I was able to make them on the fly, which is nice.”

Woods, 42, has undergone four back surgeries, the most recent in April of 2017. The Memorial marks his ninth start of the year and he’s not concerned about his back.

“My back is fused,” he said. “I’m going to have days where it’s tight. Unfortunately, today was one of those days. I don’t have any pain, thank God. It’s just tight, so no biggie.”

Woods is tied for 46th, seven strokes behind leaders Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann and Hideki Matsuyama.

An early back nine starter with defending champion Jason Dufner and Justin Rose, Woods missed the first four fairways off the tee. At the par-4 10th and 13th holes, he found fairway bunkers, but reached the green both times thanks to splendid recovery shots and escaped with two-putt pars.

That wasn’t the case at the par-5 11th. Woods pulled his drive into thick rough, hacked out, then came up short of the green with his third shot from 235 yards, ending up in a fronting water hazard. After taking a drop, Woods flagged his fifth shot from 50 yards to close range and salvaged a bogey.

Woods gave himself a good birdie looks at 13 and 15 but was unable to convert. At the par-5 15th, he blocked his tee shot out of bounds to the right and sustained a double-bogey. Woods bogeyed the par-3 16th when his drive wound up in the back bunker and he lipped out a six-foot putt.

Woods hit his second fairway of the side at the par-4 17th, and took full advantage. He flushed a nice approach to 12 feet and rolled it in for his first birdie.

At the uphill par-418th, Woods pounded his tee shot down the middle of the fairway and smoothed another sweet approach just inside 20 feet of the pin. The birdie putt didn’t drop and he made the turn in 3-over 39.

“I didn’t really feel my swing very well and consequently I hit it both ways, mainly left,” said Woods.

The front side was a different story. After saving par at the first hole, Woods capitalized on a nice approach shot to birdie the second, then made another good save at the third. He gave one back with a three-putt bogey at the par-3 fourth, but hardly missed a shot the rest of the way.

Woods tallied the first of three consecutive birdies at the par-5 fifth, reaching the green in two by blistering two long irons and two-putted from 50 feet. He nearly holed out his approach at the par-4 sixth, leaving a short birdie putt, then racked up his third in a row by getting up and down from a greenside bunker at the par-5 seventh.

After a two-putt par at No. 8, he rebounded from a poor drive at the par-4 ninth to make a clutch up and down, draining a 12-foot putt to shoot 3-under 33.

Woods hit 12 of 18 greens, nine of 14 fairways, and used 29 putts.

Forty-five of the 120 players broke par at Muirfield, made easier by overnight rain.

“I know it’s a long way back, but at least I’ve got a fighting chance,” said Woods.

On Friday, he starts his second round on the first tee at 1:16 p.m. ET with Dufner and Rose.