Tiger Woods stumbles late for 71
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods' ongoing quest for a 15th major championship got off to a shaky start Thursday, as the world's No. 1-ranked golfer failed to take advantage of relatively benign scoring conditions at Oak Hill Country Club and double-bogeyed his final hole.
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On a day in which the course was softened by overnight rain, Woods could not take advantage, although he made several par-saving putts to avert what could have been a higher score.
"The round realistically could have been under par easily," said Woods, who chose to look at the bright side. "I played really well today. One loose 9-iron shot [on the fourth hole]. I made a few par putts out there as well.
"As I say, I feel like I played well enough and made some nice key putts, and the key is I left it in good spots too. I'm still right there. I mean ... as of right now, I'm only six back and we have a long way to go."
Woods can take a positive from the fact that in each of his last two major wins, the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2007 PGA Championship, he opened with scores of 71.
Still, this was a day to be under par. When Woods finished his round, 21 players had broken par 70. He ended the round in a logjam tied for 50th overall.
Part of the problem for Woods: He hit just 9-of-18 greens in regulation. Starting on the back nine, he began his round by having to hole a 10-footer for par, made birdies at the 13th and 15th holes and then could not add another the rest of the day.
His first bogey came at the par-5 fourth, a troubling sign as he failed to hit the fairway with a driver and from there hit two more indifferent shots to end up in a greenside bunker. He could not get up and down for par.
Still, had Woods maintained from that point, a 1-under outcome would have been acceptable. But at the par-4 ninth, his final hole, he had an awkward approach from the first cut of rough, his shot ending up in the deep rough short of the green.
From there, he attempted to hack the ball onto the green but came up short in a bunker and was unable to get up and down, taking a double-bogey.
"I tried to shape a one over there, and I drew no lie at all from my third shot," he said. "And I was just trying to play 20 feet long and putt back and try and just get bogey. I didn't even get it over the bunker. It came out nowhere. Didn't really have much from there, hit a beautiful putt, just lipped out."
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Woods is coming off his fifth victory of the year Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he shot a second-round 61 and continued to show strong ballstriking skills that were also on display for a good part of the Open Championship, where he tied for sixth.
While Woods said he played well Thursday, he was clearly a bit off, showing frustration at several approach shots and not getting the ball close enough to the hole.
After turning in 2-under par, Woods seemed to lose momentum at the par-4 second, where he missed a relatively short birdie putt. He lamented not taking more time over the putt and said that he and his group of Keegan Bradley and Davis Love III had been put on the clock, meaning they had to make up ground with the group in front or risk getting a slow-play penalty.
"We were put on the clock on the first hole [his 10th], so we had to get going and try to close the gap," Woods said. "It would have been nice to take a little bit longer on that putt. It was a pretty tricky little putt."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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