August 07, 2014

Tiger searching for answers after tough round

Tiger Woods had trouble getting on track in Round 1 of the 96th PGA Championship at steamy Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

A four-time PGA champion, Woods carded a 3-over 74 on Thursday, posting four bogeys and one birdie — the latter a chip-in — on a mostly frustrating day. He trails early pacesetters Lee Westwood, Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer by nine strokes.

“It wasn’t very good,” Woods said. “A lot of bad shots, and I never got a putt to the hole. Just for some reason I thought they were going to be a little bit quicker, and I didn’t make the adjustment well enough.”

Playing in only his 11th competitive round since undergoing back surgery on March 31, Tiger was unable to prepare like he normally does and played only nine practice holes Wednesday. Competing in the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week, Woods jarred a bone out of joint in his back and developed spasms when he landed awkwardly after hitting his second shot on the second hole. Following his tee shot on the ninth hole, Tiger’s back spasms were too much, forcing him to withdraw from the tournament.

Woods’ status this week was iffy, but once the bone was popped back into place, the spasms stopped. Tiger rested and received treatment Monday and Tuesday, then made the decision to compete Tuesday afternoon. The good news is that Woods was pain free on Thursday, although he admitted to stiffness afterward.

Tiger’s game wasn’t as sharp as he would have liked it to be during first-round play, failing to birdie any of the three par-5s and playing the four par-3s in 2-over.

Part of that can be attributed to his lack of familiarity with the course. While Woods won at Valhalla in 2000 in a playoff against Bob May, many changes have been made to the Jack Nicklaus layout. All 18 greens were redone, chipping areas were added, and the course was extended 400 yards to now measure in at 7,458.

“It is what it is,” Woods said. “I have the same opportunity as everybody else and just didn’t get it done.”

An early back-nine starter with Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson, Tiger nearly birdied the par-4 10th to open up the round, leaving a long putt one roll short of the cup. Woods sustained his first bogey of the round at the 211-yard, par-3 11th, where he missed the green long-right and failed to get up-and-down.

Tiger followed with two pars, missing a good birdie attempt from about 10 feet at the short par-4 13th, then bogeyed the par-3 14th after hitting a poor tee shot left of the green.

Following a par at No. 15, Woods recorded his lone birdie of the day at the par-4 16th, where he hit a good drive but left his approach shot short of the putting surface. Tiger chipped in, raising his wedge skyward with his right hand after the ball reached the bottom of the cup.

Woods added two-putt pars at Nos. 17 and 18 to make the turn in 1-over 37.

Looking to generate positive momentum, Tiger bogeyed the par-4 first and second holes. In both cases, he hit poor tee shots way left. At the latter, his 3-wood tee shot wound up in a water hazard, resulting in a one-stroke penalty. After taking a drop, Woods did well to salvage a bogey by holing an 18-foot putt.

Tiger parred the last seven holes. He made a good par-save at the par-4 sixth, sinking a 15-foot putt after hitting a poor approach shot from the fairway.

His best birdie opportunity came at the par-5 seventh. After blocking his drive way right, he received a free drop, punched the ball back into the fairway, executed a nice pitch-and-run about seven feet below the cup, but the ball lipped out.

Woods two-putted from long range at the eighth and ninth holes to shoot a 2-over 37 on the second nine.

“My swing was dialed in on the range,” Tiger said. “Unfortunately it didn’t carry over to the golf course.”

Woods decided not to practice after his round.

“Not today,” he said. “I’m going to go get treatment and make sure this thing is nice and loose for tomorrow.”

On Friday, Tiger begins second-round play on the first tee at 1:45 p.m. ET with Harrington and Mickelson.