Woods made a one birdie, six bogeys and a double bogey en route to an opening round of seven-over 78.
The warning signs should have been clear. Tiger Woods told us at the U.S. Open that his back is achy whenever the weather is cool. We knew the weather was going to be cool at Royal Portrush. He said in Tuesday’s press conference that his game is not where he wants it to be. We should have believed him.
But this is Tiger Woods, and this is the Open Championship. So despite all the writing on the wall, we held out hope that he’d manufacture his way into contention.
That hope was shattered with one swing. And the 77 shots that followed didn't do much to restore it.
Woods’s first tee shot on Thursday was as ominous as possible. The shot itself was poor—a quick hook, with an iron, into the left rough—but the grimace on his face was downright concerning. It was a face that betrayed pain, not mere dissatisfaction with a golf shot.
The three-time Open champion looked physically uncomfortable all day and eventually signed for a seven-over 78, a round that takes him out of the tournament.
"I'm just not moving as well as I'd like,'' Woods told reporters after the round. "And unfortunately, you've got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn't do it. I didn't shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left to right. And wasn't hitting it very solidly.''
Woods entered this week as a giant question mark, mainly due to the fact that he simply hasn’t played very much golf since nabbing major No. 15 at Augusta. This was just his 11th round since winning the Masters, and his last competitive round before Thursday came at the U.S. Open, where he finished T21 a full five weeks ago. He will play his 12th post-Augusta round on Friday, and it will need to be something in the mid 60s if he is going to play his 13th on Saturday.
That will require birdies. Woods made precisely one on Thursday, and it didn’t come until the 15th hole.
He looked stiff. Walked gingerly. It was a gait reminiscent of his disastrous Ryder Cup last September, when he arrived drained from winning the Tour Championship and went 0-4 at Le Golf National. He looked nothing like the player who held the solo lead on Sunday at this tournament last year at Carnoustie.
This will now be the third straight major since the Masters that Woods does not factor in. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship, and while he stuck around for the weekend at Pebble Beach, he was never anywhere near contention. Those performances make his triumph at Augusta that much more special; they serve as reminders of just how fragile this 43-year-old version of Tiger Woods is.
Ever since slipping on his fifth green jacket, Woods has talked about how much the win took out of him, both physically and mentally. Three months later, it is abundantly that Woods’s body, game and energy levels have not recovered.
Below is a hole-by-hole recap of the round.
Hole 18, par 4 - Bogey. +7 78 for day
That was such a struggle. The hole, and the day.
Woods pulled his driver left into rough, then tried to muscle a 5-wood up toward the green. But the shaft got caught in the gorse and the clubface closed, sending the ball well left of the green. He could not get up and down from there and two-putted for a seven-over 78.
Hole 17, par 4 - Par, +6 for day
The good news is he's even par on the back nine, so that's something. Another ho-hum par—a drive into the fairway, an approach onto the green but not into makeable range, and a two-putt. Just one more to go now.
Hole 16, par 3 - Par, +6 for day
The treacherous par-3 16th is going to be a huge factor this weekend—though probably not for Tiger—as it's a 230-plus yard par 3, and the right side of the hole falls off into a cliff. Tiger played safely left of it and made a nice up-and-in for par. A 3 on 16 is a good score.
Hole 15, par 4 - Birdie, +6 for day
We're on the board! Woods made his first birdie of the day at 15, where his driver found the fairway and his approach went to the fat part of the green. He then jarred a 30 footer to give himself a two-shot cushion over Rory McIlroy in what is clearly the most interesting battle of the day.
Woods sardonically threw his hands to the sky, so good to see that he's still in decent spirits out there.
Hole 14, par 4 - Bogey, +7 for day
We're officially in Rory territory after dropping another shot. This, too, came after a good drive, a peeled driver right down the center. From the middle of the fairway he hit a chunky pull into the deepest bunker on the course, then couldn't get up and down for par.
Hole 13, par 3 - Par, +6 for day
Woods hit probably his best shot of the day into the par-3 13th, a towering 8-iron into the 200-yard hole that bounced and rolled out to about 10 feet. That left a relatively straightforward birdie effort, but he started the putt on the left edge...and it broke left. Never close. A tap-in par but he needs to make a bunch of those type of putts if he's to stick around for the weekend.
Hole 12, par 5 - Par, +6 for day
This was a great chance to get his first birdie of the day. He missed that chance, even after a great drive in the fairway. Missed about a 12 footer that would have got him back to 5 over for the day.
Hole 11, par 4 - Par, +6 for day
Pretty standard par at the 11th, finding the green in regulation and narrowly missing his birdie. He trudges onward to the par-5 12th.
Hole 10, par 4 - Bogey, +6 for day
Do you hear that? That's the sound of Tiger's private jet getting ready for a departure tomororw afternoon.
Woods hit driver into the fairway and left himself just 130ish yards but missed left, then failed to get up-and-down for his par. The bogey train marches to the 11th tee.
Hole 9, par 4 - Bogey, +5 for day
Well that's a 41 on the front nine, so that's not very good.
Another miss left off the tee, then another hack from the gorse that didn't leave said gorse. He hit a nice third shot to give himself about 20 feet for par but couldn't convert. After four pars to start, he played his last five holes of the front nine in five over and is in terrible shape.
Hole 8, par 4 - Par, +4 for day
A sort of wipey cut 3-wood lands on the right side of the fairway and kicks back to the middle, then his approach from 142 was perfectly pin high but well right of the flag. The birdie effort was right on line but finished about two rolls short, so that's a tap-in par. He could have used a bounceback bird there.
Hole 7, par 5 - Bogey, +4 for day
This round—and Woods' Open Championship—is officially on life support after another dropped shot. He actually did really well, in the end, to make 6—Woods hit his drive way left into gorse; his second also hooked left into gorse; his third hit a mound not 20 yards in front of the ball and stayed in gorse; his fourth advanced about 60 yards; his fifth was a wedge to tap in range. Adventurous to say the least. Woods is now four over through 6 and he's in bad shape. He also doesn't look good physically, as he's moving gingerly. Perhaps too early to say not his week, but we're gonna go ahead and say it sure doesn't look like his week.
Hole 6, par 3 - Double bogey, +3 for day
From bad to worse...Woods tried to hit a high cut into the par 3 but flew it a solid 15 yards too far, finding a depression left and long of the green. He tried to hit a flop shot from there but kind of skulled it, sending it racing over the other side of the green. A craft bump and run from there left about six feet for par but he missed it high, and this is officially a very bad start. Double bogey and three over throug
Hole 5, par 4 - Bogey, +1 for day
The par-4 5th is driveable, and it's really playing as a par 3.5 today. Tiger did well with his tee shot to get it just short and right of the green but hit a very poor wedge that bounded to the back portion of the green, a good 50 feet from the cup. He left his birdie effort well short and the left-to-right par effort was terrible, low the whole way. That's a very poor score on that hole.
Hole 4, par 4 - Par, E for day
Another really solid par there. It started with a bullet-fade 3-wood right down the middle, then he played a nice approach that bounced off a mound short and right of the green and bounced to the middle, perfectly pin high. The birdie effort from about 30 feet was right the hole way but finished within tap-in range.
Solid start, considering the almost-drama at 1.
Hole 3, par 3 - Par, E for day
The good news? That was a stress-free par. The bad news? It probably should have been a birdie. Woods hit a pitching wedge on the 175-yard par 3—that's links golf for you, as he landed it about 145 yards then let it take a huge hop—and judged it perfectly, stopping it perfectly pin high. His eight footer for birdie wouldn't fall, though, and it's a third straight par.
Hole 2, par 5 - Par, E for day
Tiger went with 3-wood on the par 5 and hit a high fade that found a pot bunker in the fairway. That forced him to simply wedge out with his second and he still had over 230 yards into the green with his third. A solid long iron to the front portion of the green and two putts for a par.
Again, not exactly a stress-free par, but he is even through 2.
Hole 1, par 4 - Par, E for day
Well, that was an eventful par. Woods went with iron off the first tee and hit it way left into rough...but the most concerning aspect was the look on his face after he hit it. He looked down and grimaced. That's always worrying.
It is rainy and cool at Portrush, and Woods has talked about feeling much better when it's warm, so that's something to keep an eye on.
He looked fine while taking a huge swing with his second, which finished in a bunker short of the green. He played a really nice bunker shot from about 30 yards to 10 feet, then converted the par effort to start with a 4. Certainly eventful, but a par is a par.