Chicago Sun-Times

TIGER OFF IN OPEN

Woods un­able to sus­tain early mo­men­tum, fin­ishes with 73 in first round at Winged Foot

- BY JOHN MAR­SHALL Sports · Golf · Tiger · Tiger Woods · United States of America · Championship

Tiger Woods hit his open­ing drive to the cen­ter of the first fair­way, spun a short iron to 18 feet and just missed his birdie putt, tap­ping in for an easy par.

The rest of his day was an up-and-down scram­ble punc­tu­ated by an ugly dou­ble bo­gey.

Un­able to take ad­van­tage of a rel­a­tively tame Winged Foot, Woods had a string of three con­sec­u­tive mid-round birdies but dumped a pitch shot on No. 18 to con­clude a 3-over 73 on Thurs­day in the open­ing round of the U.S. Open.

Woods fin­ished eight shots be­hind play­ing part­ner Justin Thomas, who’s 17 years younger and held the early lead af­ter shoot­ing 65.

“Well, it was a bit of ebb and flow to the round to­day,” Woods said. “I did not fin­ish off the round like I needed to.”

Woods, the reign­ing Masters cham­pion, ar­rived at the U.S. Open af­ter miss­ing the FedEx Cup play­offs and ty­ing for 37th at the PGA Cham­pi­onship. The 44-year-old with the cranky back hadn’t played a com­pet­i­tive round in three weeks but got off to a solid start with three straight pars on a rare day of prime scor­ing con­di­tions at Winged Foot.

Woods ran into trou­ble when his tee shot ran through the fair­way on the dog­leg par4 fourth and he couldn’t get up and down from in front of the green. He just missed the fair­way on the par-4 fifth and an awk­ward lie in the green­side bunker led to an­other bo­gey.

Woods had his first birdie by spin­ning a short iron to six feet and mak­ing the putt on the short par-4 sixth. He gave it back two holes later when an­other tee shot just missed the fair­way and set­tled deep in the man­gled Winged Foot rough.

“Be­gin­ning part of the round, it seemed like things weren’t go­ing my way,” Woods said. “Good tee shots ... ended up in the rough in bad spots.”

Luck and mo­men­tum ap­peared to be on his side when he rolled in a 31-foot birdie putt over one of the many se­vere slopes on Winged Foot’s tricky greens at No. 9. That kicked off a stretch of three con­sec­u­tive birdies, putting Woods at 1-un­der and in good po­si­tion at a course where he’s his­tor­i­cally strug­gled.

The mo­men­tum was short-lived in

Winged Foot’s long rough.

A shot that didn’t fade enough led to bo­gey on the long par-3 13th and one that faded too much caused an­other on the next hole. An­other long putt dropped for birdie on the dif­fi­cult 16th, but he gave it right back on the equally tough par-4 17th.

Still in de­cent shape at 1 over, Woods walked off No. 18 with a sour taste for his round af­ter dump­ing a tight-lied pitch shot into the se­vere front slope of the par 4 and miss­ing a nine-foot bo­gey putt.

“I tried to stay as pa­tient as pos­si­ble and un­for­tu­nately just did not fin­ish off my round the way I needed to,” he said.

Woods made five birdies but hit just six of 14 fair­ways and nine greens in reg­u­la­tion. He’s now 21 over par in his last seven com­pet­i­tive rounds at Winged Foot and has a huge hill to climb for a 16th ma­jor ti­tle on a course that’s sure to get tougher through the week­end.

“We have a long way to go,” Woods said. “This is a long marathon of a tour­na­ment. There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent things that can go on.”

Woods has some work to do in Fri­day’s sec­ond round if he’s go­ing to con­tinue on in this tour­na­ment, much less make a run at the lead­ers.

 ?? AP ?? Tiger Woods, play­ing a shot from a bunker on the sec­ond hole, is eight shots be­hind leader and play­ing part­ner Justin Thomas af­ter the first round of the U.S. Open.
AP Tiger Woods, play­ing a shot from a bunker on the sec­ond hole, is eight shots be­hind leader and play­ing part­ner Justin Thomas af­ter the first round of the U.S. Open.

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