Tiger struggles in wind, fades off Open pace

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Tiger Woods was on the wrong side of the draw — and often the wrong side of the holes — during the first round of the 150th Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews on Thursday.

Playing in the afternoon wave, which had windier and much more difficult conditions than what the morning group faced, Woods carded a 6-over 78. He was 14 shots behind leader Cameron Young after 18 holes.

It was a disappointing beginning for Woods, who is playing in only his third official tournament this season. He had hoped to contend at St. Andrews, where he won The Open in 2000 and 2005. He was also hoping his surgically repaired right leg would be stronger, less than 17 months after he was seriously injured in a car crash outside Los Angeles in February 2021.

Woods, 46, will have fewer than 12 hours to recover and prepare for Friday’s second round. Woods, U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa are scheduled to tee off at 4:58 a.m. ET Friday.

After struggling mightily on the first eight holes and starting 6 over, Woods began to turn things around on the short par-4 ninth. He drove his 379-yard tee shot through the green, chipped to about 8 feet and made a birdie putt to move to 5 over. Walking off the green, Woods smiled, licked a finger and motioned it like a slam dunk.

Woods made another birdie on the par-4 10th hole. After knocking his tee shot 306 yards down the middle of the fairway, his approach shot to about 3 feet was his best of the round. He sank a birdie putt to improve to 4 over. Woods gave back 1 shot, however, on the par-3 11th hole, when his 9-foot par putt slid past the hole. He made another bogey with a three-putt on the par-4 13th.

Woods’ best hole might have been the par-5, 616-yard 14th. He ripped a 412-yard drive down the middle — the longest drive by any player on the day — and hit the green from 188 yards. He two-putted from about 75 feet for birdie.

But Woods’ start on the Old Course couldn’t have been much worse. His opening tee shot landed in a divot, and his approach shot was well short and rolled into a burn in front of the green. After a drop, he made a nice chip shot to about 3 feet but missed the short putt and made a double-bogey 6.

After carding a par on the second hole, Woods made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4. He missed the No. 3 green from 109 yards and three-putted on No. 4 to fall to 4 over. An errant tee shot on the seventh hole, which settled in a deep bunker near the 12th tee, led to another double bogey.

With two double bogeys in the first seven holes, Woods matched his total of double bogeys or worse in the three rounds he played at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in May. He had one double bogey and one triple bogey there before withdrawing after 54 holes because of pain in his right leg. He carded a 9-over 79 in the third round, his worst score in the PGA Championship.

Woods didn’t have a double bogey in the first two rounds of the Masters in April but did have two in the third and one in the fourth. He posted a 6-over 78 in each of the last two rounds, representing his worst scores in his career at Augusta National.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Woods played 321 rounds in majors from 1995 to 2020 and posted just five scores of 78 or worse. He has four such scores in eight rounds in majors this year.

Homa, who had tweeted earlier this week about his excitement to be in the same grouping as Woods, called Thursday “the coolest fricking day I’ve ever had on a golf course” while shooting a 1-over 73.

“He’s the GOAT for a reason,” Homa said. “He was very, very nice. It was a really fun day. It was a dream-come-true-type day minus some of the golf. It really felt like fantasy.”

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