Bad break puts Woods behind eight ball at St. Andrews
July 14, 2022
By Ben Everill and Kevin Prise , PGATOUR.COM
- July 14, 2022
- Tiger Woods has won two previous Open Championships at the Old Course at St. Andrews and seeks a third. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – It wasn’t supposed to go this way.
Tiger Woods posed over his opening tee shot at the 150th Open Championship and felt pretty darn good. He called it “perfect”. His 3-iron flat draw was sailing directly down the left side of the fairway at the iconic Old Course as planned. Then it rolled straight into a fresh divot.
It got worse from there for the 82-time PGA TOUR winner who is looking to win the Claret Jug for a fourth time, and third time at St. Andrews. His approach shot dropped into the burn fronting the green, the result of an untimely wind gust according to Woods, and soon after he was writing a double bogey six on his card.
The battle continued from there and when his six-hour round was finally complete, Woods was signing for a 6-over 78, a distant 14 shots behind TOUR rookie Cameron Young who lit up the hallowed turf much like Woods in his prime with a 64.
“I didn't really feel like I hit it that bad but I ended up in bad spots. Or just had some weird things happen. And that’s just the way it goes. Links is like that. And this golf course is like that,” Woods said.
“Sometimes it just goes that way. It just goes one way and it never seems to come back. No matter how hard you fight. And then I compounded problems with my bad speed on the greens.”
Thousands had come in the hope of seeing one more miraculous performance from their 2000, 2005 and 2006 Open champion. They didn’t get it. But they couldn’t look away.
Bogeys on the third and fourth holes dropped Woods further off the pace and a second double bogey on the seventh hole sent a hush over the crowd who desperately wanted to see some vintage magic.
Liam James and his large group of friends had made the trip up from Newcastle in the north of England. James was born on the day Woods won his first Open Championship in 2000 and echoed the thoughts of many when asked why he was keeping the faith at six-over through seven holes.
“We don’t know if Tiger will ever play an Open here ever again. The question should be why everyone isn’t here watching him,” James said. “Even if he shoots 80, we will cheer every shot. It’s not just about today, it’s about everything he’s given the game. This is Tiger Woods at the home of golf, it doesn’t get better.”
Sure enough the fans remained six or seven deep throughout Woods’ grueling six-hour round with those directly behind the 17th tee having staked their spot almost three hours prior to his arrival just so they could see him hit over the St. Andrews Hotel.
While Woods lined up his approach shot on the same hole fellow competitor Haotong Li was spotted at the window of his hotel room filming on his phone – everyone it seems was aware of how special it was to be there regardless of his score.
Fans did get the chance to roar a little around the turn when Woods made back-to-back birdies on the ninth and 10th holes. They also gave him some extra love when he birdied the 14th and the hearty hundreds who stuck it out past 9p.m. local time for his walk up 18 gave Woods warm applause.
“They were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. So supportive,” Woods said of the masses.
“(Today was) very, very meaningful… all things considered, where I've been… this was always on the calendar to hopefully be well enough to play it. And I am. And just didn't do a very good job of it.
“I think I had maybe four or five 3-putts today. Just wasn't very good on the greens. And every putt I left short. I struggled with hitting the putts hard enough. They looked faster than what they were putting, and I struggled with it.”
The short turnaround between rounds was tough for Woods in his past start at the PGA Championship. Robust and lengthy recovery sessions needed to keep his banged-up body in check made sure of that. But on Thursday a 46-year-old Woods refused to use his injuries as an excuse admitting, “it was a lot easier today, physically, than it has been the other two events.”
While the growing sentiment from behind the ropes was to soak up the moments like they might be his last, James and his friends weren’t ready to give up hope.
“The golf gods haven’t appeared to be kind today, but perhaps they’re just setting up for something even bigger tomorrow,” James said. “We are chasing tickets just in case.”
For his part Woods already has a target in mind.
“Looks like I'm going to have to shoot 66 tomorrow to have a chance (to make the cut),” Woods said. “Obviously it has been done. Guys did it today. And that's my responsibility tomorrow… to go ahead and do it. I need to do it.”
Maybe it is supposed to go that way.
Here's a hole-by-hole breakdown of Woods' opening round at The 150th Open.
Hole 18 (par 4, 345 yards): Woods pulled fairway metal on the final tee and striped it, the ball bounding down the fairway and reaching the front edge of the green. It tried to creep onto the proper level but just ran out of steam. The ball fell back down off the front of the green, into the famed Valley of Sin.
Woods took his time surveying his eagle try; he started the ball on a line to the right of the hole, and it swung back accordingly but didn't have enough pace. With 6 feet for birdie, Woods delivered a confident stroke but the ball slid past on the right side. He drained his 3-footer for par, center cut, and removed his hat to salute the appreciative patrons.
6-over thru 18; 9/16 fairways hit; 11/18 greens in regulation
Hole 17 (par 4, 501 yards): On the famed Road Hole, protected by the Old Course Hotel on the right side, Woods pulled driver and launched a towering fade that landed in the fairway but caught a mound and rolled out into the fescue just left of the fairway.
Woods aimed well right on his approach, producing a slight draw that landed in the fairway short of the green and chased up onto the proper level of the green, leaving a lengthy birdie putt. On the Road Hole, any green in regulation is cause for rabid applause, and the patrons reacted accordingly.
On his right-to-left breaking birdie try, Woods judged the line beautifully but didn't provide quite enough pace. The ball stopped a couple feet short of the hole, but he made his par, always a good par on 17 at the Old Course.
6-over thru 17; 8/15 fairways hit; 10/17 greens in regulation
Hole 16 (par 4, 416 yards): Woods pulled iron off the tee and launched a mid-trajectory liner that landed in the center of the fairway but rolled out substantially, ultimately finding the fescue on the left-hand side. Importantly, though, he avoided the famed Principal's Nose bunker.
From 170 yards, Woods perhaps caught a flier; he knew it immediately upon impact. The ball sailed over the flag and settled in a fairway area past the green.
Facing 82 feet from the back fairway, Woods played a low bump-and-run with an iron -- almost a putt-type shot. The ball started right of the hole and stayed there, leaving a 10-foot putt to save par. It slid by on the left edge, as he looked to the sky in dismay. He tapped in for another bogey, his fifth of the day along with two double bogeys.
6-over thru 16; 8/14 fairways hit; 9/16 greens in regulation
Hole 15 (par 4, 460 yards): Woods took driver off the tee and produced a hard cut, the ball landing in the fairway and rolling out to leave a short iron into the green.
The 46-year-old made crisp contact on his approach, staring it down and seeing the ball land and check 20 feet left of the hole, leaving a realistic birdie opportunity in the Thursday twilight.
Woods' birdie putt held a beautiful line but narrowly missed on the right side, the ball even curling back at the end to settle just past the cup. He tapped in for a solid par.
5-over thru 15; 8/13 fairways hit; 9/15 greens in regulation
Hole 14 (par 5, 616 yards): Woods wasted no time in taking driver and pummeling one down the right-center of the fairway. He didn't hesitate upon impact, and the ball appeared to run out nearly 100 yards after landing. It traveled 412 yards, running through the fairway and leaving just 188 yards to the hole, also marking the longest drive on the hole to this point in the day.
Woods launched an iron high in the air and the ball caught the front portion of the green. Perhaps in an unlucky break, though, the ball landed directly into the face of a slope, keeping it from releasing toward the hole.
Facing a severely uphill, 74-foot eagle putt, Woods judged the pace beautifully and nestled the ball to within 3 feet of the hole. He converted his birdie to carry some good vibes into the final four holes at the Old Course.
5-over thru 14; 7/12 fairways hit; 8/14 greens in regulation
Hole 13 (par 4, 456 yards): On one of St. Andrews' most physically and mentally demanding holes, Woods found fescue off the tee, leaving a daunting approach to a right-center hole location guarded by a deep pot bunker.
"There's no way for Tiger to play at this hole location," remarked a commentator.
Woods played to the left portion of the green, the ball landing near hole-high and releasing to the back of the green, leaving a birdie putt exceeding 100 feet. He did well to get his lag putt within 15 feet of the hole; even after a hearty backswing, the putt still did not have enough pace to reach the cup. His par putt was left all the way, bringing his second three-putt bogey in a three-hole span. He provided a sarcastic smile as the par putt slid by.
6-over thru 13; 7/11 fairways hit; 7/13 greens in regulation
Hole 12 (par 4, 346 yards): Woods grabbed driver and quickly appeared anxious after launching it left of his target. The ball flirted with fescue but narrowly cleared the trouble and bounded into the fairway; Woods could be heard saying "Go! Go!' with the ball in the air. The problem: the ball released through the fairway and into another region of fescue.
With 40 or so yards to the green, Woods kept the ball low and played a bump-and-run with beautiful pace, the ball releasing to within 5 feet of the hole. He pulled his birdie putt left, though, knowing it immediately off the putter face. He tapped in for a frustrating par, knowing the importance of birdies after his rocky start to the week.
5-over thru 12; 7/10 fairways hit; 6/12 greens in regulation
Hole 11 (par 3, 176 yards): With a 6-iron, Woods produced a mid-height draw and played a proper shot to the center of the green, leaving a birdie putt of 30 feet from the lower portion of the green.
Woods' birdie putt didn't carry enough pace, trailing off short and right of the hole to leave a testy par try of 6 feet. He took his time at address but the ball turned too much right-to-left at the last second, sliding by on the left side. He tapped in for a disappointing three-putt bogey.
5-over thru 11; 7/9 fairways hit; 5/11 greens in regulation
Hole 10 (par 4, 407 yards): Woods took driver and maintained the momentum from his first birdie of The Open, striping a drive down the left center of the fairway to leave a short iron into the hole.
The 82-time PGA TOUR winner didn't miss a beat on his approach, displaying deft touch as the ball landed soft, checked and released to within 4 feet of the hole. The crowd roared. Woods didn't miss a beat, pouring the putt in the center and raising his right hand to the towering grandstand. Back-to-back birdies.
4-over thru 10; 7/9 fairways hit; 4/10 greens in regulation
Hole 9 (par 4, 342 yards): Woods took driver on the reachable par 4 and flushed it. The ball bounded up onto the green, rolling across and over before settling in light rough with plenty of green to work with, the hole location positioned front-left.
Woods played a low bump-and-run chip that tracked toward the hole before settling 8 feet short, his best birdie look to this point in the round. He took advantage, draining it in the center of the cup to provide a jolt of energy into the second nine. He grinned from ear to ear after retrieving his ball from the hole.
5-over thru 9; 6/8 fairways hit; 3/9 greens in regulation
Hole 8 (par 3, 201 yards): Woods pulled a long iron and played a high draw that settled in wispy rough some 40 feet from the hole. On one of St. Andrews' most demanding holes, though, the shot was met with polite applause.
For his second shot, Woods played a bump-and-run with a long iron, the ball skipping through the rough and releasing to within 3 feet of the hole, a classy play for the two-time winner at St. Andrews. He saved his par, followed by a wave and head nod to the appreciative patrons.
6-over thru 8; 6/7 fairways hit; 2/8 greens in regulation
Hole 7 (par 4, 365 yards): With the wind remaining a steady force into the late Scottish afternoon, Woods selected a fairway metal and sent it well left, into the vicinity of a group traversing the 12th fairway. Woods' ball ultimately found a gnarly fairway bunker that is typically more in play on No. 12 than on No. 7.
"A very difficult start to The 150th Open for that man," reflected a commentator.
Woods had no option but to lay up from that deep bunker, leaving a full-swing wedge for his third shot into the par 4. He didn't put enough juice on it, the ball landing short of the green and spinning even further back into the fairway. Upon arriving at his ball, he pulled an iron for a bump-and-run shot to the green, almost playing the shot as a putt with an iron. The ball took a roller coaster of sorts, up and down a mound, before running out 12 feet past the hole.
Woods' bogey putt missed on the left side, and he tapped in for a deflating double bogey. He is now ahead of only six players on the leaderboard, standing in a tie for 149th place.
6-over thru 7; 6/7 fairways hit; 2/7 greens in regulation
Hole 6 (par 4, 401 yards): Woods pulled driver and sent his tee shot down the left center of the fairway, the ball safely eluding a daunting pot bunker.
With a short iron from a good angle, Woods launched the ball high in the air but didn't catch all of it; the ball landed and settled in a valley short and right of the front-left hole location. He selected putter for his lengthy birdie effort, up and over a mound, but he didn't put enough pace on it; the ball stopped 10 feet short of the hole.
With rows of fans on their feet, Woods delivered perhaps his first feel-good moment since the opening tee shot, rolling the par putt in the center of the cup.
4-over thru 6; 6/6 fairways hit; 2/6 greens in regulation
Hole 5 (par 5, 531 yards): Woods took driver on the reachable par 5, understanding the need to make up some shots quickly if he hopes to work his way back into realistic contention. His ball started left of center and he motioned for it to move right; the ball eluded trouble and settled in the short grass. (Fairways at St. Andrews are so expansive that two things are paramount: angles and avoiding the nasty pot bunkers. With so many different ways to play a hole, it can be tricky to deduce a tee shot's outcome in relation to the player's original intent.)
"I'd say it's a little left of where he was trying to hit it," remarked a commentator, "but he's got it in play. Tough to get the second shot close there at 5."
From 231 yards, Woods took a fairway metal and produced a high fade, appearing pleased with the strike and walking after it. The ball landed a few yards short of the green and was "unfortunate not to get any runout," said a commentator, leaving an dicey eagle chip, uphill at first but with the green running away.
The three-time Open champion played a bump-and-run into the hill, but the ball picked up too much speed upon reaching the green, running out to approximately 25 feet past the hole. His birdie putt was left the whole way, but he tapped in for par, albeit a disappointing one.
4-over thru 5; 5/5 fairways hit; 2/5 greens in regulation
Hole 4 (par 4, 491 yards): Woods took driver and pulled it a touch left, the ball landing in the fescue but fortunately bouncing back into the short grass; he had caught a well-timed downslope on a mound in the fescue.
Woods found the putting surface with his approach but was left approximately 60 feet for birdie; considering the sprawling nature of St. Andrews' green complexes, a green in regulation might not always provide the same context as it does on a typical golf course.
Woods' birdie putt held a solid line but stopped 10 feet short of the hole; he slightly dropped his head as he traversed to mark his ball. His par putt missed on the left side, and he dropped another shot to par, continuing a fall toward the bottom of the leaderboard.
4-over thru 4; 4/4 fairways hit; 1/4 greens in regulation
Hole 3 (par 4, 393 yards): Woods again pulled driver and launched it to the left side of a wide fairway, the ball nearly finding the rough of the adjacent 16th hole but riding a slope back to a safe position in the short grass, nearly hole-high.
"As a general rule, you can hit it left on the majority of the holes at the Old Course," remarked a commentator.
Playing across to the third green, Woods' second shot caught a slope and rolled back into the fairway in front of the green, a vintage indication of St. Andrews' complexities. He was short-sided on his pitch shot and played to approximately 15 feet left of the hole, leaving a lengthy putt to save par.
Woods played his par putt with too much pace, the ball missing on the right side and rolling 4 feet past. He buckled his knees in despair before resetting to make the bogey comebacker.
Woods has yet to miss a fairway in his opening round but has yet to hit a green in regulation.
3-over thru 3; 3/3 fairways hit; 0/3 greens in regulation
Hole 2 (par 4, 442 yards): Woods pulled driver on the mid-length par 4 and started it on a line toward the left edge of the fairway, the ball flirting with a penal bunker but missing on the left side, safely in the fairway. He pulled a mid-iron for his approach and produced a crisp strike with a smooth follow-through, but the ball landed on the back portion of the green, some 60 feet past the hole.
Woods' lag was magnificent, the ball tracking the whole way before grazing the left edge and settling a foot past. He tapped in for a steadying par. No harm, no foul.
2-over thru 2; 2/2 fairways hit; 0/2 greens in regulation
Hole 1 (par 4, 355 yards): Woods took the tee to immense adoration and didn't hesitate, pulling a long iron and splitting one of golf's widest fairways with a crisp, low-flighted strike.
Unfortunately, though, the ball came to rest in a divot, making for a vexing short-iron to a front hole location guarded by the Swilcan burn. From 113 yards, Woods' ball landed short of the burn and one-hopped into the water.
After dropping short of the burn, Woods judged his pitch shot quite well, the ball skirting just past the hole's right edge and settling 5 feet past. He played the bogey putt left-to-right but hit it through the break, the ball missing on the left side. He tapped in for a disappointing double bogey to begin The 150th Open.
2-over thru 1; 1/1 fairways hit; 0/1 greens in regulation