Some ugly num­bers for Tiger

The Day - - LOCAL SPORTS - By BARRY WIL­NER AP Sports Writer

Southamp­ton, N.Y. — As Tiger Woods stood in the mid­dle of the first fair­way, the last thing on his mind was a 7.

That num­ber was the first thing on his score­card Thursday in the U.S. Open.

It didn't get bet­ter on his way to an­other ugly num­ber, a first-round 78.

"I just didn't get off to a good start," Woods said. "I drove good most of the day, just didn't do much from there. I just didn't putt well."

It wasn't his worst opener in this tour­na­ment. Woods shot an 80 at Cham­bers Bay three years ago, his most re­cent U.S. Open be­fore back surg­eries side­lined him.

Woods ral­lied by play­ing the rest of the front nine at 1-un­der par. Af­ter that, his putting fluc­tu­ated from spotty to just plain bad, in­clud­ing four putts on the 13th.

"It was not very good," he said of un­lucky No. 13. "I was wor­ried about run­ning the (first) putt by, it would be down­hill (com­ing back). I blocked the next one, (and) blocked the next one. It was not very good."

Nope, it wasn't. Shin­necock Hills pushed him around the way it did so many other top names and sup­posed con­tenders. A 15th ma­jor cham­pi­onship and first in 10 years ap­pears be­yond im­prob­a­ble for the great­est golfer of his gen­er­a­tion.

Woods was nine strokes out of the lead, in the com­pany of Phil Mick­el­son (7-over-80), Jor­dan Spi­eth (8 over), Ja­son Day (9 over) and Rory McIl­roy (10 over).

"I think he played bet­ter than he scored," said play­ing part­ner Dustin John­son, who fin­ished the day in a four-way tie for the lead at 1 un­der. "Ob­vi­ously he got off to a rough start, but I felt like he hung in there pretty good."

With the fair­ways and greens lined a half-dozen deep in spots for the mar­quee three­some of John­son, Woods and Justin Thomas, there never was a short­age of en­cour­ag­ing shouts of "Tiger!" There were au­di­ble groans, though, on the open­ing hole with each of his sub­se­quent shots.

Woods air­mailed the green on his ap­proach and it went down a steep hill into light rough. His pitch got onto the green, but not nearly far enough to stay there, and rolled back down the hill a few steps to the left of where Woods had been.

When Woods went over the par-3 sec­ond green with his tee shot, a long, un­pro­duc­tive day seemed im­mi­nent. He putted again, get­ting to 6 feet, but pushed the putt.

Two holes and 4 over on one of the world's most dif­fi­cult cour­ses in as tough a tour­na­ment to win as any.

Then Woods stead­ied. He never looked like a three-time U.S. Open win­ner — most re­cently in 2008 — but he played the rest of the front side in 1 un­der.

Af­ter Woods set the put­ter down be­hind his ball on the 10th green, he backed away when the ball moved. Un­der new rules, it's no longer a penalty, but he called over a rules of­fi­cial to make sure. Then he re­placed the ball and made the putt for par. Then it got re­ally ugly, and the frus­tra­tion be­gan to show with blown putt af­ter blown putt.

CAROLYN KASTER/AP PHOTO

Tiger Woods, right, mo­tions to call over an of­fi­cial af­ter the wind moved his ball on the tenth green af­ter he had al­ready ad­dressed it dur­ing the first round of the U.S. Open at Thursday at Southamp­ton, N.Y. Dustin John­son looks on.

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