MAMARONECK, N.Y. — Even though he had five birdies on his card, Tiger Woods could not find much that was positive about his start to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. That’s probably because he was annoyed by six bogeys and a double bogey on the final hole during an up-and-down 3-over 73 that left him eight shots behind early leader and playing partner Justin Thomas.
“No,” Woods said if there was anything good he could take from his first round of the year’s second major championship. “I needed to finish off the round better — and I didn’t.”
The inconsistency has been a staple for Woods in the events in which he has competed since golf returned from a three-month shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. He has had just four rounds in the 60s among the 17 he has played over five events and has not finished higher than his tie for 37th at last month’s PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Thursday’s opening round at Winged Foot was the latest example, highlighted by the stumble at the end. His six pars matched the fewest he has ever made in a major championship round. He did the same thing in the 2011 PGA Championship. On the other hand, only twice before has he made at least five birdies in one round at the U.S. Open; he won the event the other two times, in 2000 and 2002.
Still, that wasn’t going to make him happy, not after what happened at the 18th hole. Woods struggled the entire day off the tee, hitting just six of 14 fairways. He was wide left off the tee at the par-4 18th. Nestled in the deep Winged Foot rough, he could only advance the ball to about 20 yards short of the green. That’s when the problems really began.
He chunked a flop shot, leaving it short of the putting surface. The next pitch was too aggressive, settling 10 feet above the hole. He could not convert the bogey putt and tumbled all the way to a tie 76th.
“Well, we have a long way to go,” he said. “This is a long marathon of a tournament. There’s a lot of different things that can go on. I just wish I would have finished off my round better.”
The roller-coaster ride started at the fourth. After three straight pars to start, Woods entered a stretch in which he made just three pars over the final 15 holes. There were back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5. Then he got things going, rattling off three consecutive birdies at the Nos. 9, 10 and 11.
“I made a few putts the middle part of the round,” he said. “Seemed like I wasn’t getting anything out of my round early on, and then it flipped.”
But it went the other way again, with bogeys at the 13th and 14th. A birdie at the difficult par 4 16th — just the third birdie of the day to that point — was followed by a bogey at 17 and the frustrating double at the 18th.
“Well, it was a bit of ebb and flow to the round,” Woods said. “I made a bunch of putts in the middle part of the round. It seemed like most of my drives on the front nine landed in the fairway and ended up in bad spots, and I tried to stay as patient as possible, and unfortunately just did not finish off my round the way I needed to.