By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/05/19 7:18pm
Tiger Woods’ chances of winning back-to-back majors dipped significantly after he opened the 101st PGA Championship with an erratic two-over 72 at Bethpage Black.
Woods double-bogeyed twice in his first eight holes before staging a rousing recovery, which included a delightful eagle at the fourth, but he then ruined his fightback with three bogeys over the next four holes which left him nine shots behind defending champion, and playing partner, Brooks Koepka.
The Masters champion, who revealed his absence from Wednesday’s practice was due to sickness, got off to a terrible start when he pulled his opening drive into a tough lie to the left of the 10th fairway, and he needed four shots to find the green before lipping out from six feet to run up a six.
He steadied himself with a good run of pars before picking up his first birdie of the day with a 15-foot putt on the 15th, only to suffer his second double-bogey of the back-nine when he bunkered his tee-shot to the par-three 17th and failed to find the green with his splash-out.
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But he revived his challenge with another excellent putt for birdie at the first, which he followed with a classy wedge to three feet to set up another gain at the next, and the Bethpage fans were in raptures on the long fourth when Woods rattled in a 30-foot putt for eagle to get to one under.
Woods slipped back to even when he three-putted the fifth green after racing his birdie putt four feet past the hole, and he was six feet short from long range at the seventh and looked a frustrated figure when his par attempt slid by on the right.
The 43-year-old continued to undo the fine recovery work when he blocked his tee shot wide-right of the eighth green, chipped to eight feet and missed putt on the left edge, and a solid par at the last completed a mixed-bag of a round which leaves him with a mountain to climb to get back into contention.
“It wasn’t as clean as I’d like to have it for sure,” said Woods afterwards. “Didn’t get off to a very good start. It was a good drive and ended up in a bad spot, and I compounded the problem with trying to use the backboard behind the hole there and missing a putt I should have made.
“And then found my way back around. Got it back under par for the day, and let a couple slip away with a couple of bad putts and a couple mistakes at the end.
“The golf course is playing tough. I felt like it’s not that hard to make bogeys out here, but it’s hard to make birdies. And I thought it was going to be hard to get the ball close to the holes.
“When I had a few opportunities there with short irons, I played aggressively and was able to get them in there where I had makeable putts, and otherwise 30, 40 feet away and move on.
I felt like it’s not that hard to make bogeys out here, but it’s hard to make birdies
“We’ll see what the golf course offers up tomorrow. It changed quite a bit from when we played this morning to this afternoon. The greens got a lot faster, and we’ll see how it dries out over the next few days.
“I don’t see them cutting the rough down, so it’s just going to place another premium on driving the ball in the fairway to get at some of these flags,” added Woods, who also believed the Koepka’s stunning 63 could have been even better.
“He played well. He hit a couple loose tee shots that ended up in good spots, but I think that was probably the highest score he could have shot. He left a few out there with a couple putts that he missed, so it could have easily been a couple better.”
Live PGA Championship Golf
May 17, 2019, 1:00pm