Tiger Woods had an up-and-down from about 30 yards on his last hole Thursday, and a par would have kept him within four shots of the lead in the PGA Championship.
Then he approached his ball, there at the tip of a long-sloping hill up to the ninth green, and he realized he had a problem.
"No lie," he would say later.
The ball was buried. So much for holing out. Woods decided to try to fire one over the flagstick and then putt about 20 feet back for par. That was the goal, anyway.
His club head disappeared into the thick rough and out came his ball, looking like it weighed about 40 pounds. It landed with a soft thud in the bunker only a few feet in front of him.
Groans filled his ears.
"Got nowhere," he would say.
Woods' sand shot went a lot better, but it left him eight feet for bogey. His putt scooted around the rim of the cup and out to the right. He pinched the bridge of his nose and clenched his eyes shut.
"Just lipped out," he would say.
A double bogey. One-under par for the round became 1-over par in a few brutal minutes. And although he's got plenty of time and plenty of chances left with 54 holes still to play, two shots is a whole lot in a major championship.
It was his putter that betrayed him Thursday. Woods was always the surest thing on the course inside of 12 feet, and had appeared back in form after his eight-stroke win last week at the World Golf Championship. In his first round though, he missed several from that length, including a three-footer on Hole 2 that inexplicably stayed out. That negated one of the two gorgeous birdies he'd posted on his first nine holes. Then his final hole negated the other and then some. He shot 38 on the second nine.
The good news? His irons from the fairway were scintillating – as good as ever – and that gives him a puncher's shot to come back – he'll be at least six strokes back after Jim Furyk posted a 5-under 65 to grab the lead early.
But as we all know, Woods is not a comeback artist, especially lately. He seems to win only when he goes into Sunday with at least a share of the lead.
And as we're all learning, Woods seems to struggle at majors on the weekends, meaning Friday better vault him back under par.
For now, he's a handful of shots – and 100 feet – away from the leaders.
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