Tiger Woods had his chances. Then it blew them.
Woods, 44, was on the cusp of vaulting himself into contention in Thursday’s U.S. Open first round at Winged Foot with a string of three birdies from Nos. 9 through 11 to get to 1-under par.
Then it all went wrong for him. In the end, Woods was victimized by too many unforced errors and tumbled down the leaderboard with a 3-over-par 73 that left him in 69th place at the time he finished his round, eight shots out of the lead held by Justin Thomas, one of his playing partners.
After the round, Woods, who finished with a sloppy double bogey on the 18th hole, referenced his poor finish no fewer than six times, obviously agitated by it.
“I did not finish off the round like I needed to,” he said. “I made a bunch of putts in the middle part of the round. It seemed like most of my drives on the front nine landed in the fairway and ended up in bad spots. I tried to stay as patient as possible, and unfortunately just did not finish off my round the way I needed to.”
On No. 18, Woods’ tee shot landed in the left rough. His second shot landed short of the green, but with a good lie. His third shot was a stunning stub-chunk that a 20-handicapper would make that landed well short of the green. The final blow was a 6-foot bogey putt that he missed to the left right after Collin Morikawa had missed the same putt.
“I needed to finish off the round better and I didn’t,’’ Woods said. “It seemed like I wasn’t getting anything out of my round early on, and it flipped. Unfortunately, I just didn’t finish off the way I needed to.”
Sense a theme here?
Woods, the 2000, 2002 and 2008 U.S. Open champion, praised the course set-up as “fantastic,” and noted the surprising number of scores in red numbers, led by Thomas, who shot a 5-under-par 65.
“The golf course is there to be had,” Woods said. “They gave us a lot of opportunities with the hole locations. Obviously, they could have made it a lot more difficult if they wanted to, but I thought it was very fair.”
As far back as he was at the end of his round, Woods refused to acknowledge that his chance of winning a fourth U.S. Open are dead.
“We have a long way to go,” he said. “This is a long marathon of a tournament. There’s a lot of different things that can go on. I just wish I would have finished off my round better.”
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