What looked worse on Thursday at the 2019 Open Championship: Tiger Woods, or his score? From the jump, Woods struggled with his body and his card.
He yanked a tee shot off the first which elicited a closed-eyes grimace from a man whose health has become a regular national conversation. He made par, but it would be one of his few on the day.
Woods couldn’t find a fairway, couldn’t find a green and went out in 41. Coming home didn’t look much better, although he did keep it under 80 and somehow also. A bogey at the last pushed it to a 7-over 78 on the day.
“I’m not moving as well as I’d like,” Woods told Golf Channel after the round. “Certain shots I just can’t hit. Father time and procedures I’ve had, it’s just the way it’s going to be here from here on out. It’s why I’m not playing as often on the PGA Tour. I will be there [to play Friday].”
His lone birdie was mockingly celebrated by Woods himself, who knows at this point that he doesn’t have the goods. He tried to tell us this early in the week. He said his game isn’t where he wants it to be. On this course on this day, that was apparently code for flirting with 80. Tiger is 12 back of J.B. Holmes’ lead.
Whereasthat included three horrific holes, Woods’ 78 was a long, slow march into the abyss that everybody — including him — knew wasn’t going to turn the other way.
Does it get better from here? I can’t imagine it will. Major championship golf has a way of exposing you even if your game is only 5 percent or 10 percent off. You can blame Woods’ on-course woes on a number of different things, and all of them may be fair. You can say that he hasn’t played enough or that he hasn’t practiced enough or that that grimace at the first wasn’t just because he hit a poor shot.
Wherever you lay the blame, it’s clear that Woods isn’t right. He’s been unprepared coming into two of the last three majors. On Thursday, that manifested itself in poor putting speed, an uncommitted short game and an inability to work the ball both ways at a tournament where you have to work it both ways.
Everything following his Masters victory this year was always going to be gravy, but this version of Tiger does not look like somebody who is super close. Maybe that comes back in a month or two months, or maybe it doesn’t come back until next year (or never!). There is a lot Woods needs to work out, and none of that is going to take place in a meaningful way on Friday.
So for the second time in three majors, Woods will likely miss out on playing the weekend. Maybe that’s for the best anyway. He warned us there are only so many swings left in his brittle body. May as well use them when he’s in real contention rather than trying to grind out another T33 at a major championship.