Don’t you hate that cliche? “Drive for show, putt for dough.” I was reminded of that hackneyed saying nearly every day for almost a decade. What makes it so frustrating is that it’s true. When you have an incredible ballstriking day and hit 15-16 greens, you feel like you should automatically beat least 5- or 6-under. But then you count the 33 putts and it adds up to a ho-hum even-par 70.
But I hit the ball so well! Yeah, wish it worked that way. So did Tiger Woods in the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC, a course where he’s dominated in the past with seven victories (duh alert: all pre-scandal era).
As we’ve seen in the last few months — probably starting at The Memorial Tournament — Tiger’s ballstriking has consistently been excellent. Of course he’s had off days, but usually when he posts a less-than-satisfactory score, it’s usually his short game that’s the culprit.
On the front nine Woods was almost perfect, hitting eight of nine greens. He was throwing darts, giving him ample makeable birdie opportunities. He hit it within 16 feet six times. How many of those did he make? Zero.
“Well, I hit it good today,” said Tiger after signing for level par 70. “Unfortunately, once I got to the greens, probably I think I averaged about four putts per hole, so it was a great day on the greens.”
LOLZ! Sarcasm! That’s actually a funny quote, relatively speaking.
He opened the back nine with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 (putts were 7 feet and 6 feet, respectively), getting him to three-under on the day. Momentum! Maybe that’s just what he needed to kick-start his round and do some damage coming in.
Well, an errant iron shot on the par-5 No. 13 botched that plan. After a perfect drive to the left-side of the dogleg right, Woods missed his approach short and right. It stayed in the rough instead of rolling into the bunker, but he probably would have been better off in the sand. He hit his chip to about nine feet and failed to convert par.
That bogey led to two more in the remaining five holes. Um, not exactly the most ideal way to finish…
“I was 3-under par,” said Tiger. “I mean, that’s not that bad. At the time I was three back of the lead and hadn’t made a thing. I thought that was a good sign. Unfortunately, I finished awful, and here we are.”
Here we are, even par and seven shots behind leader Jim Furyk, who fired an outstanding 63 to open the week.
So what was wrong with his putting? Did he have trouble adjusting to the different grass?
“I just hit bad putts today,’ said Tiger, who needed 33 strokes on the greens. “My speed was off. The putts that I pured, I didn’t make. And then the bad putts didn’t have a chance.”
Woods acknowledged his excellent tee shots, saying he was “launching it out there.” He was also happy with the way he was shaping the ball.
Afterward, he headed to the driving range and waited for instructor Sean Foley, who was working with another student, Hunter Mahan.
Tiger was at the range for 10 minutes max and for most of it, he was just waiting for Foley. He hit a few drives (which were absolutely pure, obviously), and then headed for the putting green, where he worked on drills for another half-hour (at least…he probably stayed quite a while longer, but I took off).
Looked like a smart and productive post-round practice session. He didn’t beat balls for an hour and then putt, He focused on what he needed to work on.
Woods tees off in the morning wave on Friday, where he’ll get to putt on “fresh greens.”
(Getty Images/Sam Greenwood)