Tiger Woods struggled early in the first round of the Memorial Tournament, but he managed to turn it around on his second nine to contain the damage to a one-over 73 at Muirfield Village and stay within six shots of the leaders. Following the pro-am on Wednesday, Woods told reporters he felt progress with his swing changes and his game, but his first nine holes were a different story.
“I didn’t play very good today at all,” said Woods. “I didn’t have much with my game. I need to work on it here a little bit. But I fought hard, I fought hard to get back. And to get it back on a golf course like that, it was pretty good work…
“Physically, I feel good. Mentally, I feel beat up. That grind is so hard. To turn that round around like I did today, I mean I bogeyed 17, doubled 18. I rip it off 1. And I shoot 3-under par (on the second nine), and that was hard.”
Woods started on the 10th and drove it into the rough — an ominous beginning to the day — and he left his second shot short and eventually two-putted for bogey. He posted another bogey on the par-5 11th after plunking it in the water hazard on his second from the fairway. Following a par on the 12th, he dropped another shot on the 13th after yet another errant tee shot.
Woods drained a seven-footer for birdie on the 14th to get a shot back and then made another putt from five feet on the 16th. However, he slipped back after failing to save par on the following hole.
Then, the real damage on his first nine came at the 18th. Woods pushed his drive way right and out of bounds. His second attempt was also poor and he settled with a double-bogey to make the turn at four-over 40. Woods is now 8-over on the 18th hole in his last nine rounds. (Guess he’s not a big fan of the finish at Muirfield Village?)
Despite not having nearly his best, Woods dug deep on his second nine, rolling in a birdie from 20 feet on no. 2. He managed to salvage a par on the 5th after yet another wayward drive. Then, he made consecutive birdies on nos. 6 and 7. He nearly made it three in a row, but left his birdie attempt inches short of the cup on no. 8. On the 9th, he ran his first putt about four feet past the hole, but holed the comeback to save par and post three-under on his second nine.
“I just grinded,” said Woods, who only found four of 14 fairways on Thursday. “I just grinded, that’s all I did. I didn’t really have much.”
Woods is working through swing changes at the moment, which have been clearly impacting his game. However, he was pleased that he remained committed to the modifications with his swing.
“I was just trying to stay committed to what we’re working on, to what we’re doing,” he said. “I hit it awful, yeah. So what? I was going to go through this phase and stick with it, keep sticking with it. And some of the shots I hit were really, really good, but then I also had some really bad shots, too. And we need to work on that, too and omit the bad ones.”
Woods talked about the different pattern that he’s working on with his swing.
“It’s the pattern we work on, we’re trying to change it,” he said. “It’s kind of what you have to go through. And unfortunately, I can hit it either way, because of this move we’re working on. But it’s so much more flush, and so much more solid and a lot easier on my body, I seem to do it right.”
The change he’s working on is different than what he was doing at his last start at The Players Championship last month.
“It’s a little bit different move we’re working on since the PLAYERS,” said Woods. “Obviously this is nice to get out here and play and test it and see what it’s like, and also to fight like I did and get myself back in the tournament. But I need to do a little bit of work and keep progressing. And I’ll try and get it to peak at the right time.”
Despite his struggles, he remains adamant about sticking to the changes he’s working on with his swing consultant Chris Como.
“I’m staying committed to what we’re working on,” said Woods. “I’ve gone through phases like this, rounds like this before in the past where, yeah, it’s easy to revert back and go ahead and hit some old pattern, but it doesn’t do you any good going forward. And I’ve done it, sometimes it’s taken me about a year and then it kicked in and I did pretty good after that. And subsequent years went down the road, I did the same thing.
“(I’ve) got to suck it up. If you believe in it, do it. And eventually it will start turning, and when it turns, I’ve had periods where I’ve played good for four or five years, where I’ve won close to 20 tournaments in that stretch.”
Hopefully, his new swing will start producing results soon.
Meanwhile, Ken Duke, Ryan Moore, Harris English and Brendon Todd posted five-under 67s to take the early clubhouse lead.