Woods looks solid in first-round 68 at PGA Championship
August 06, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods top-5 shots from TPC Harding Park
Concerns about the cold weather's effect on Tiger Woods' back and his lack of competitive reps were put to bed by a first-round 68 in the PGA Championship.
It was Woods' lowest opening round in a major since 2012.
Woods wore a sweater all day, but the cold, damp conditions at TPC Harding Park didn’t impact his ability to swing freely. He led the field in driving distance when he walked off the course, averaging 313.5 yards off the tee on the two measured holes.
He hit just half his fairways Thursday, missing several left after hitting tee shots off the toe. His iron play was strong when he was in the short grass, especially on his back nine.
"The most part of the day, I missed the ball on the correct sides," Woods said. "This golf course, you have to hit the ball in the fairway. You get a ball in the rough, into the grain, there's no chance you can get the ball to the green. I felt like I did a decent job of doing that."
Woods was even par after 12 holes, but then rolled off three birdies in a four-hole stretch.
It started on the par-5 fourth, where he missed the fairway left and could only advance his second shot 150 yards. He hit his 160-yard approach to 4 feet, though. On the next hole, he hit just his fourth fairway of the round and hit his 148-yard approach to 14 feet.
He hit an iron off the tee on the short seventh before sticking his 131-yard approach to 13 feet. He bogeyed the next hole out of a greenside bunker before hitting a 319-yard tee shot on 9 and finishing with a par.
Woods, who teed off on No. 10 with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, got off to a good start with birdies on two of his first four holes. He hit a high flop to 8 feet on the par-5 10th, then holed a 33-footer for birdie on 13.
He bogeyed the next hole, appearing befuddled when his 9-foot par putt lipped out after he started walking after it.
Woods finished his front nine with four consecutive pars, punctuating his play on that side with a 21-foot par putt on 18.
"The big par putts ... keep momentum of the round going, and that was a big putt for me to make after making a mistake on my tee shot, missing it left," Woods said.
Woods gained +1.4 strokes on the greens Thursday after averaging -0.84 per round this season. Switching to a longer putter, which puts less strain on his back, paid immediate dividends.
He fell back to even par after a bogey at 2. Another fairway missed left forced him to rely on his short game, but he missed a 7-footer for par. He saved his best for the end of the round, though. Woods hit five of his final six greens and his last four fairways.
Woods, who was three strokes behind leader Jason Day when he walked off the golf course, is scheduled to tee off at 4:58 p.m. Eastern on Friday.