KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — If there's one thing Tiger Woods hasn't had any trouble with this year, it's getting off to a strong start at major championships. With an opening-round stroke average of 69.3, it's been his best day of the week -- a potential springboard for a run at his 15th major championship.
Quite honestly, if Woods could bottle up Thursdays and keep them in his bag for emergency situations, he would. But alas, he has to play the other three days of the tournament which, based on his finishes this year in the majors, haven't gone according to plan.
But the rest of the week can wait. To even get to the point where we can discuss Woods' chances over the weekend, he needed to post a solid round on Thursday at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course -- something he managed to do on a hot and humid day, firing a 3-under 69 that left him three shots behind leader Carl Pettersson after the first round.
"I played well out there today and anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship," Woods said after his round. "I'm right there."
Woods is certainly right there, in the same position he's been over the last two majors, sitting a couple shots off the lead and looking like a legitimate threat to contend for his 15th major.
The question remains, however, if he can keep it going when it matters: On the weekend. He doesn't have to answer that question for a couple of days, but a solid ball-striking round and putting display gave Woods hope that this could be the week he finally posts a red number on the weekend, at a major, for the first time this year.
One week after he struggled out of the gate at Firestone, recording 33 putts in the first round, Woods looked like a different golfer on the greens for much of the day, making a couple putts, including a 10-footer for birdie on the 12th and 15-footer for birdie on the 15th, early on that led you to believe Woods wasn't kidding when he said he figured something out over the weekend at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods later added a 25-foot birdie on the 18th, and two more from inside 10 feet on the par-4 first and par-4 second, stretching the birdie streak to three before missing a 15-footer on the par-4 third. When the dust settled on his round, Woods only needed a total of 22 total putts on the Ocean Course's paspalum greens.
If there's one thing that's been missing from Woods' arsenal at the majors, it's a red-hot putter. He certainly found one on Thursday, even if the score didn't show it.
One thing's for sure, however: He can't blame his three bogeys on the driver. After looking gun-shy at Royal Lytham, Woods pulled driver on seven occasions during his round, hitting the fairway six times. It was actually Woods' 3-wood that gave him trouble, after his ball found the hazard on the par-4 third; he also suffered another unfortunate bogey after his ball rolled into a sandy area on par-4 13th that forced him to take a wild swipe to clear a mound that was precariously close to his ball.
While the two tee shots cost Woods, he still managed to hit nine of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens on the day, more than respectable numbers on a day when the wind failed to make an appearance during the round.
Like the wind that seemed to come and go at times during the first round, plenty could change with regards to Woods' game over the next three days, but for at least one day, the 14-time major winner is in contention at the PGA Championship.