Tiger battles back after horror start

Tiger Woods playing a shot from a bunker on the fourth hole during the first round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis, Missouri on Thursday. The former world No. 1 recovered from being three over after two holes to car
Tiger Woods playing a shot from a bunker on the fourth hole during the first round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis, Missouri on Thursday. The former world No. 1 recovered from being three over after two holes to card an even-par 70.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ST LOUIS • Tiger Woods provided a reminder of the attribute that once made him so dominant in golf. Talent, after all, is nothing without fortitude.

Struggling at three over par after two holes in Thursday's opening round, Woods was in danger of being a PGA Championship footnote. His latest tournament obituary was being penned.

Even an early change of his sweat-soaked shirt did not help immediately, as his crooked driving more than once had the massive morning gallery ducking and diving. But a seven-iron to three feet at the par-four 18th, his ninth hole, led to a birdie and gave the four-time PGA Championship winner a little boost of confidence as he made the turn at two over.

Often lost in discussion of the 42-year-old's remarkable career is his ability to scrap like a seasoned street fighter. The former world No. 1 signed for a level-par 70 that will have him glancing towards overnight leader Gary Woodland at six under as opposed to fearing a missed cut.

"It kept me in the tournament," Woods said of his recovery. "I could have easily gone the other way, being three over through two. A lot of things could happen, not a lot were positive but I hung in there and turned it around. I was able to grind out a score."

His determination was typified on the 15th, his sixth hole. Having found dense shrubbery twice, he played a chip to within three feet of the cup to save par. Rory McIlroy's drive, clean approach and two putts appeared bland in comparison.

McIlroy matched Woods' score. The third member of this marquee group, the defending champion Justin Thomas, shot 69. McIlroy missed a series of opportunities to produce a better score, but railed against the widely held notion that Bellerive is there to be butchered.

"I didn't hear any of that from the players," he said. "That's from people who aren't playing in the tournament, who haven't played the course and they really don't know."

McIlroy wore a protective strapping on his right arm, but played down any suggestion of a serious problem. There was a denial, too, from the PGA of America regarding the tournament being affected by the hacking of the association's computer files.

The hack was accompanied by a ransom demand via a bitcoin address in the same week Tommy Fleetwood's Open winnings were paid into someone else's bank account. The European Tour got the wrong Tommy Fleetwood.

Thomas, who won last week's World Golf Championship event, could join Woods as the only men since 1937 to win consecutive PGA Championships.

"Definitely a lot more positives to take than the negatives," Thomas said.

GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'Tiger battles back after horror start'. Print Edition | Subscribe