Tiger Woods’ first day at the U.S. Open started to go bad with his second shot. And when the round ended 78 shots later, his name was third to last on the leaderboard.
Woods’ 80 at Chambers Bay marked his second-highest score in a major, one shot better than his third-round 81 at the rainy 2002 British Open. However, it was puny improvement from the worst round of his pro career, an 85 earlier this month at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.
“It was a tough day,” Woods said. “Got off to a bad start. I stuck that 6-iron in the ground on the first hole, and then just couldn’t quite get it turned around today.”
Dressed fully in black, Woods opened his round bogey, bogey, par, bogey. He stabilized a bit with pars on holes seven through 10, but then began drifting back again. He birdied only the par 4 16th.
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Woods struck bottom with a triple-bogey seven on the 14th, where he needed three shots to get out of of two bunkers and then missed a short putt.
He ended the day with a bogey on 18 — which played as a par 5 Thursday — including a trip into the deep Chambers Basement bunker, the first golfer in the tournament to find themselves in that position. Woods reached that bunker by topping a 3-wood shot from the middle of the fairway, looking more like a weekend warrior at the local municipal course than the best player in the world.
“I fought,” he said. “I fought hard. And that was my number. I couldn’t grind out any harder than that. So that’s just the way I played; and unfortunately, it was a high number today.”
Troubles for the three-time U.S. Open winner came in all shapes and sizes. He hit half the greens in regulation. He hit six of 14 fairways. He had three three-putt greens.
“The hardest part is trying to leave yourself below the hole,” he said. “And you can’t because the putts coming down the hills are just ... they’re tough to make, put it that way.”
The decline of his day was echoed by shouted support from the gallery. Early “Go, Tiger,” shouts morphed to “Don’t give up, Tiger” by the second hole, and “How’s the back?” by the third. Along the back nine, the shouts were “We still love you, Tiger,” along with encouragement that he could yet survive the cut and play through the weekend.
That drama will begin playing out when his second round begins at 8:28 a.m. Friday.
He will start the day even with Alex Kim and Billy Hurley III, and ahead of only Rickie Fowler (81) and Richard Berberian Jr. (83).
Fowler was among Wood’s three-some Thursday, and Woods found at least some consolation in that.
“The bright side is at least I kicked Rickie’s butt today,” he said, managing a smile.