ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, who arrived at this week’s PGA Championship as the overwhelming favorite to win a 15th major, was still liking his chances despite a messy finish to his opening round on Thursday.
Woods, who is looking to snap a five-year title drought in golf’s elite championships, had a bogey and double-bogey over his final six holes as part of a one-over 71 that left him six strokes behind clubhouse leader Jim Furyk.
“I’m still right there,” said Woods, who started out on the back nine and was two under after six holes. “As of right now, I’m only six back and we have a long way to go.”
In relatively benign conditions on an Oak Hill course that was softened by overnight rain, Woods scrambled to make several par-saving putts but was unable to take full advantage of any spurts of momentum.
On his first hole, the par-four 10th, Woods sent his tee shot into the first cut of rough and then yelled at himself after leaving his approach short of the green. Woods chipped past the hole but sank an eight-footer for par.
He missed the green on his next hole, the par-three 11th, but salvaged par with a short putt after chipping out of some greenside rough.
Woods picked up his first stroke of the day at the massive 598-yard, par-five 13th hole, tapping in for birdie after a stunning approach shot left him just short of the cup.
The world number one got to two under when he drained a eight-foot birdie putt at the par-three 15th that set off an enormous roar from an adoring gallery that followed his every move at sunny Oak Hill.
Woods also did well to save par at his ninth hole when he got up and down from a greenside bunker.
“The round realistically could have been under par easily,” said Woods, who arrived at Oak Hill fresh from a seven-stroke win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I feel like I played well today and made some nice key putts and the key is I left it in all the good spots too.”
The world number one’s round started to unravel when he bogeyed the par-five fourth after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
But it was his final hole that was a far cry from the red-hot form he has been showcasing of late to earn the nod as title favorite in the year’s final major.
“I was completely blocked out and tried to shape one over there and I drew no lie at all from my third shot,” said Woods, who is seeking his first major crown since the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I was just trying to play 20 feet long, putt back and try and just get bogey.
“I didn’t even get over the bunker (with the third). Came out nowhere. Didn’t really have much from there, hit a beautiful putt, just lipped out.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes