There was buzz, like a U.S. Open hadn’t experienced in three years, because there was Tiger Woods, back at the tournament he’d claimed three times.
More than 20 minutes before Woods stepped into the first tee box, fans stood six and seven deep, jockeying for the best glimpse of the best golfer of his generation.
By the time Woods walked off the first green, the groans from the gallery had begun.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion had again reverted into someone who had gone a decade since winning a major.
After opening with a triple-bogey at the U.S. Open for the first time in his career, Woods registered three double-bogeys or worse in a round for just the sixth time in his career, and put himself in serious danger of missing the cut after posting an 8-over 78 Thursday at Shinnecock Hills.
Following the second time Woods had ever had three double-bogeys or worse in a major round (2011 PGA Championship), the oft-injured, 42-year-old will need a strong second round to reach the weekend of the U.S. Open for the first time since 2013.
“It was tough out there but you shouldn’t make two doubles and a triple,” Woods said. “For most of the day, I just didn’t putt well.”
Playing alongside co-leader Dustin Johnson, Woods opened with an iron shot onto the first fairway. Next he found the rough beyond the green. Then, he took a trip down the slope of the green. By his fifth shot of the par 4, he reached the green. A missed putt of less than 7 feet left him with a disastrous triple-bogey 7.
“I just didn’t get off to a good start,” Woods said. “All I had to do was just try to shoot even par for the next 16 holes, and I’d be just fine. The guys [weren’t] going anywhere today.”
Woods followed the first by bogeying the par-3 second, but then found a rhythm, recording a par on seven of the next eight holes, while scoring a birdie on the fifth hole.
Back at 3-over, Woods had kept himself in early contention, approaching the 11th tee. But over the next four holes, he would give away another five strokes — including back-to-back double-bogeys on the 13th, and 14th — and his chance at a memorable week.
Woods repeatedly found himself in shin-deep fescue, hacking his way back onto the fairway. His recent putting issues became even worse.
Entering ranked 89th on the PGA Tour in strokes-gained putting (.108), Woods missed multiple gimmees he would have sunk with one hand a decade ago, and looked absolutely lost, while four-putting the 13th for a double-bogey. In the first round, he finished ranked 142nd — in a 156-player field — in strokes-gained putting (-2.658)
“It’s frustrating because I’m hitting it well,” Woods said. “Shoot something in the 60s [Friday] and I’ll be fine.”
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