Before Tiger Woods even hit his first tee shot at Oak Hill at the PGA Championship, everyone and their baby mamma were absolutely 110% certain that this was THE week. You know, the one where he’d finally quit horsing around on Sundays and leave the field in the dust on his way to his 15th major.
Well, that’s still certainly possible. After all, THE TOURNAMENT ISN’T WON ON THURSDAY.
Fresh off his dominating seven-shot victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, anything less than a score in the low 60s would’ve probably seemed disappointing. Because we’re sick, sick people. Or, we just get spoiled by seeing Tiger pull off the incredible time after time, so we come to expect it. What I’m trying to say is that it’s ALL TIGER’S FAULT for creating these uber-ridiculously high expectations.
The overnight rain softened conditions quite a bit for Thursday play, making the greens more receptive and allowing players to attack pins more aggressively than expected. In other words, the moisture took some of the bite out of the big, bad, brutally tough Oak Hill Country Club — which has hosted not only the PGA Championship, but also the Ryder Cup, the United States Open, the United States Amateur, the United States Senior Open and the Senior PGA Championship, and prides itself on only yielding under par scores to 10 players in five stroke-play events.
“When we first went out there the first maybe hour there was no wind,” said Woods, who teed off at 8:35am. “On top of that with the rain here, it softened everything up. There was never any danger of a ball rolling past your number that you were going to land it at. No ball is going to bounce over the back if you drove the ball in the fairway.
“If you drove it in the rough — Davis (Love III) and Keegan (Bradley) today hit a few tee shots in the rough and were able to get it on the green. We weren’t exactly able to do this in practice rounds, so that rain certainly helped things.”
The course was gettable, especially in the morning, but instead of firing a five-under 65, like clubhouse leader Jim Furyk, Tiger shot a mediocre one-over 71.
The Great One started on no. 10 and played his first nine pretty well, posting two-under 33. But then, he came around to the not-as-friendly front nine (for him, at least) and threw a few silly shots away on his second nine, including a double-bogey on his last hole of the day.
Tiger, you slacker! How dare you make such mistakes, like missing a three-footer for birdie on no. 2! You’re Tiger Woods. You’re supposed to be perfect.
Well, it happens to the best. So, for the hacks watching at home, sorry to break it to you, but don’t get a false sense of hope just because Woods hit a few shots that were eerily familiar to the ones you see at your weekly Sunday four-ball at your local muni.
“I hit some good shots there, stuffed it at 2, tricky little putt,” said Woods, referring to the missed birdie opportunity. “Probably should have taken a little bit longer, but we were on the clock and had to get going, so ended up blocking the putt anyways down the hill.”
Woods, along with Davis Love III and Keegan Bradley, were informed by officials they were on the clock starting on no. 1 (their 10th hole). Now, for those who think this is SUCH A BIG DEAL and this NEVER happens to Tiger, that’s false. Guys, including the mighty Tiger, are put on the clock more often than you’re aware. The general public just doesn’t hear about it because the players (besides young Asian phenoms) know how to game the system and speed up when the stopwatch is running. Then, once they’re back in position, they slow back down.
“We have to be conscious of it, but we play just about every week like that,” he said. “So that’s nothing unusual. We have a lot of people following us and a lot of cameras going off and movement inside the galleries. We have a tendency of having that happen and we’re accustomed to it. It happens.”
Anyway, Woods implied he was distracted by making sure he didn’t receive a bad time, which caused him to rush and miss the putt on no. 2.
“A little bit,” said Woods when asked if it affected his execution. “We were put on the clock on the first hole so we had to get going and try to close up the gap. It would have been nice to take a little bit longer on that putt. It was a pretty tricky little putt. Looking from behind the ball, it looked like it was going to snap. Looking from behind the hole, it looked like it wasn’t going to snap. I ended up playing it somewhere in between and then blocked it.”
Their group was taken off the clock on the 4th hole.
Speaking of which, Woods made a sloppy bogey on the par-5 4th. He laid up after he drove it in the rough, hit a crappy lay-up out, then knocked his third in the bunker and actually hit a nice shot from the sand to about five feet, but missed the putt to save par.
Then, on the 9th, he smashed a three-wood, but he was on the left side of the fairway, so overhanging trees blocked him from having a direct shot at the green. He tried to hit a cut, but executed it poorly and left his approach about 20 yards short in the rough. From there, he had a bad lie and flubbed a flop shot into the front-left bunker and then missed about a 10-footer to save bogey.
So, no, not an ideal finish for his campaign to break his major drought, but YOU DON’T WIN THE TOURNAMENT ON THURSDAY.
“I feel like I played well today and made some nice key putts and the key is I left it in all the good spots, too” said Woods, who seemed in decent spirits all things considered. “Left it right where I wanted to leave them, so I had some free runs at putts, especially the par putts.”
Good thing tournaments are won on Sundays!
Due to inclement weather, play was suspended at 4:25pm. Adam Scott, who still has eight holes to play, has gotten to five-under to tie clubhouse leader Jim Furyk, who probably has his feet kicked up on the couch somewhere.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)