Tiger Woods’ opening round at the 101st PGA Championship was a three-act play performed on an 18-hole rollercoaster track called Bethpage Black.
A disastrous start was salvaged by a run in the middle, but capped by a disappointing finish that left him nine strokes back of his fellow playing partner and first-round leader Brooks Koepka.
All in all, Woods’ 2-over par 72 was a stroke better than the field average, but the field average doesn’t win major championships.
“It wasn’t as clean as I’d like to have it for sure,” Woods said after the round. “Didn’t get off to a very good start. It was a good drive and ended up in a bad spot, and I compounded the problem with trying to use the backboard behind the hole there and missing a putt I should have made. And then found my way back around. Got it back under par for the day, and let a couple slip away with a couple bad putts and a couple mistakes at the end.”
A double bogey on the par-4 10th hole, his first of the day, put Woods behind the 8-ball, and another double at the par-3 17th, offset by the lone birdie of his back-nine on the par-4 15th left Woods turning in 3-over par, six strokes behind Koepka through nine holes.
The turn to the front nine signified a change for Woods as he reeled off a pair of birdies and an eagle over the first four holes of the Black Course to get to 1-under par on the day.
The run was short-lived, however, as Woods dropped three shots over his last four holes to post the 72.
“The golf course is playing tough,” he said “I felt like it’s not that hard to make bogeys out here, but it’s hard to make birdies. And I thought it was going to be hard to get the ball close to the holes. When I had a few opportunities there with short irons, I played aggressively and was able to get them in there where I had makeable putts, and otherwise 30, 40 feet away and move on.”
Woods will hope to create more birdie opportunities on Friday, banking on the course changing from what the early starters saw on Thursday.
“We’ll see what the golf course offers up tomorrow,” Woods said. “It changed quite a bit from when we played this morning to this afternoon. The greens got a lot faster. We’ll see how it dries out over the next few days. I don’t see them cutting the rough down, so it’s just going to place another premium on driving the ball in the fairway to get at some of these flags.”