Tiger Woods’ final major tournament of 2018 began like so many of his events this year — a wayward driver leading to big early numbers and then a mad scramble to the finish line.
When all was said and done, Woods was standing at even par, tied for 48th, following an opening round of 70 at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis on Thursday.
“It kept me in the golf tournament,” Woods said of his first-round rally, which left him six shots behind leader Gary Woodland. “I could have easily gone the other way, being 3 over through two. A lot of things could happen. Not a lot of them were positive, but I hung in there and turned it around. This afternoon the guys are going to face a little more wind than we did this morning. Just happy to be within five right now.”
That seemed unlikely after Woods began his round on the back nine with a bogey out of the right rough on No. 10 and a double after going left off the tee on No. 11 and hitting his approach into the water. He rebounded with a birdie on No. 12, but may have salvaged his round on the 15th hole, which he managed to par despite being deep into the trees left off the tee and having to punch out.
Woods flared his iron off the par-3 16th hole well over — and left — of the green to again drop to 3 over. But he would begin to chip away at the deficit with a birdie on No. 18 to make his turn in 2-over 37.
“You know, just grind my way around this place and stay as patient as possible,” Woods told TNT when asked about his mindset when he was at 3 over.
He then birdied No. 1 and got back to even par with another birdie on the par-5 eighth hole.
“Got off to a terrible start and just tried to hang in there and just kind of eat away at it and see if I could somehow get to the turn at maybe 1-over par or something like that,” Woods said. “I made the turn at 2 (over), but got a couple on the back nine and just hung in there.”
A lot is at stake this week for Woods, who entered the PGA Championship No. 51 in the world rankings. Of more pressing importance is his No. 20 standing in the United States Ryder Cup team points race. He would have to win this week to claim one of the eight automatic spots, but knows captain Jim Furyk is keenly watching the next few events to gauge the form of the handful of players vying for one of the four captain’s picks.
Woods has shown some improving — albeit inconsistent — form this summer. He opened with rounds of 66 and 68 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week, but questions about his stamina began to surface after he posted a pair of 73s over the weekend.
Woods has also committed to the first two legs of the FedExCup playoffs that will begin in two weeks, giving him four tournaments over a five-week stretch.
“I feel fine,” Woods said. “Today was, if I didn’t get off to such a bad start, I played well enough to put myself under par. There are not a lot of guys that are going to run away with this thing today. If you can make a few birdies here and there, you’re doing well.”
—Field Level Media