Tiger Woods lets go of his club after an errant drive during the first round of the 2014 PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club. (USA TODAY Sports: Thomas J. Russo)
Tiger Woods’ lengthy title drought in the majors showed no sign of ending any time soon after the former world number one struggled to an opening three-over-par 74 at the PGA Championship on Thursday.
A day after pronouncing himself fit enough to compete in the year’s final major following a back scare he suffered at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, Woods looked out-of-sorts as he mixed four bogeys with just one birdie.
While several of the early starters returned sub-par scores on a calm, muggy day at Valhalla Golf Club, Woods battled for both rhythm and momentum, continually misjudging his putts and hitting only 10 of 18 greens in regulation.
“Well, it is what it is,” Woods, a four-times winner of the PGA Championship, told reporters after ending the round a distant nine strokes off the early pace set by fellow American Kevin Chappell and England’s Lee Westwood.
“I have the same opportunity as everybody else and just didn’t get it done. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, and I didn’t get a putt to the hole. That’s not a good combo.”
Woods, who won the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open and still needs five more to overhaul his long cherished target, the record 18 piled up by Jack Nicklaus, described his round as “not very good”.
He added: “A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole. I hit all my lines. For some reason, I thought they were going to be a little bit quicker, and I didn’t make the adjustment well enough.
“I had plenty of looks to turn my round around and then post something like even par, under par,” said Woods, who totalled 30 putts. “My swing was dialed in on that (practice) range out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry it to the golf course.”
Woods’ fitness for the year’s final major had been in some doubt after he was forced to withdraw midway through the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club on Sunday.
However, he said the problem was resolved when his sacrum (a bone at the base of the spine), which had popped out after he landed awkwardly in a bunker at Firestone, was put back in by his physiotherapist.
Asked how his back felt after Thursday’s opening round, Woods replied: “It’s a little bit stiff, but that’s about it. The surgery part is fine. That’s all good.
“I’m going to go get treatment and make sure this thing is nice and loose for tomorrow.”
Woods, who has dealt with a string of injuries during his career, had surgery in March to treat a pinched nerve in his back and has played just seven events worldwide this season with his best result a tie for 25th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
He has withdrawn twice from his six PGA Tour starts and missed the cut in one other.
Prior to the Bridgestone Invitational, the 38-year-old finished 69th at the British Open after closing with a 75 for a six-over-par total of 294.
Typically, though, he did not rule out his chances of clawing his way back into contention for the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where he won the title when it was last held here in 2000.
“If I get under par for two rounds, that will be right in the ball game,” Woods said. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)