OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – A hard day’s night finally came to a dreadful end for Tiger Woods in Thursday’s first round of the BMW Championship at rugged Olympia Fields Country Club.
After grinding his way around an unforgivable course and under a pelting sun that was dishing up temperatures in the 90s, Woods was inside the top 10 when he reached his final three holes.
But Woods, who started on the 10th, finished with three consecutive bogeys and put his signature to a disappointing 3-over-par 73 and looked whipped as he headed into the clubhouse to recover.
He kept his remarks brief after the round. Then again, there wasn’t much to say.
“Yeah, the course was fine. The course is in perfect shape,” Woods said. “Not the way I wanted to finish, but the golf course is playing difficult for sure.”
As for the heat?
“Well, I live in Florida, so it’s hot. This is no different. Certainly it was hot early,” Woods said. “The wind picked up and it wasn’t bad. It’s just a little muggy.”
And that was about it.
One of the few positives Woods could latch on to was his place on the leaderboard. Only three of the 69 players finished under par – the lowest number since the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnicock – and Woods was just six shots out of the lead despite his awful ending.
Hideki Matsuyama sank a 67-foot putt for birdie on his last hole to take a 1-shot lead with his 67. The only others under par were Tyler Duncan at 68 and Mackenzie Hughes at 69.
“I’m not sure really what I had going today, but that last putt, that long putt that went in, very happy with that one, so we’ll remember that one,” Matsuyama said.
Fifty-six of the 69 players did not break par. The field averaged 72.83 – the highest field average for a first round in the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season.
Until the end, Woods looked like he’d better the field average as he dialed up his U.S. Open mentality of playing with patience and playing for pars. He made birdie for 28 feet on the 14th and from seven feet on the second. But it was the pars he dug deep to secure with deft chips and gut-check putts, like the 8-footer on the third, the 4-footer on the fourth, the 6-footer on the fifth, the 4-footer on the sixth.
Tiger Woods walks the 14th hole hole during the first round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at Olympia Fields Country Club – North. Photo by Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
At the time, he stood in a tie for ninth and just two shots out of the lead. And he was surviving his inaccuracy off the tee; he eventually finished by hitting just 6 of 14 greens in regulation.
But then Woods stepped to the tee on the seventh hole and drove into the first cut of rough, then missed the green to the left, chipped to 10 feet and missed. Bogey.
On the 250-yard par-3 eighth, he three-putted from 60 feet. Bogey. Then on the 469-yard ninth, he drove into a fairway bunker, came up 50 yards short of the green, pitched to 10 feet and then missed the par putt. Bogey.
Woods declined an interview request from NBC after the round and answered just three questions from the print media. After he addressed the course and his play in the first two questions, Woods talked – again, briefly – about racial injustice and protests and boycotts by sports leagues on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
“No, I talked to the commissioner and they were on board,” Woods said when asked if there was any consideration of the PGA Tour not playing on Thursday. “Obviously (commissioner Jay Monahan) released his statement, and all the guys were on board. So no, obviously there was talk about it because of obviously what happened, but we’re all on board, on the same page.”
Woods will have to turn the page on his game if he’s to make it to East Lake for next week’s Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup Playoffs finale. After the first round, he stood 56th in the projected standings, with only the top 30 advancing.