The only good news for Tiger Woods on Thursday is that storms hit Liberty National Golf Club and The Northern Trust on Wednesday, which means only a handful of folks saw the entirety of his 4-over 75 in the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Unfortunately, I was one of them.
Woods beat just one golfer in the morning wave and continued what has been a disconcerting string of poor play since taking the Masters in April. Let’s wade through what went wrong (and some of what went right) on Tiger’s no good day at Liberty National.
Front nine (4-over 39): Woods stumbled through his first nine holes and sat in last when he made the turn in the middle of the morning. He made four 5s on his first nine (back nine on the course), which included three bogeys and a double. His primary issue was on approach shots. Woods, despite gaining strokes off the tee, lost over four strokes to the field from tee to green. That’s wild. It’s normally with the big stick where Woods can leak a few strokes, but an average approach 36 feet from the hole when your average distance is 178 yards in tells you everything you need to know about how Woods played these nine holes.
Back nine (even-par 36): Big Cat found a little heat early on the back as he hit his first approach shot — a wedge on the first hole on the course (Tiger’s 10th of the day) — to 5 feet. It was (easily) his best approach of the day to that point, and he jarred it for birdie. That was followed by a great approach to the 220-yard par-3 second, but Woods missed that birdie. He closed with two more bogeys and a birdie for an even card on that side. Woods righted the ship for the most part on the front, at least in terms of ball-striking. The problem for him right now is that a righted ship isn’t full sail. It’s pars, not birdies. He can’t get every facet working together at the same time in harmony. And at a place like this in a playoff, that’s not going to be even close to enough.
What went well: Uh … not much. I guess if you’re looking for silver linings, Woods averaged 290 yards off the tee, which was solid, and didn’t show many signs of pain a day after skipping part of his pro-am.
What went poorly: Where do we start? Woods finished his round nearly last in that wave in putting, approach shots and play around the green. This is not the most difficult course. Only a handful of golfers were more than 1 over on the day, a number Woods never even really flirted with.
One hole to explain the day: His last was pretty telling. On a 471-yard par 4, Woods pumped a 288-yard drive dead center. He pulled an iron well off the green, wedged to 14 feet and pissed that putt for par. From 183 yards away in the middle of the fairway, you should be making par at worst on this course. Tiger limped to a bogey, and this happened on repeat throughout the day.
Stat of the day: I believe 10 of 18 greens in regulation is the one that best tells the story. And that’s with him hitting seven of his last nine!
Where he stands: Woods is 13 back of the lead and nowhere near what the Friday cut will be. He has a ton of work to do just to play the weekend which — at this point with how he’s talked about his body and the form he’s been on — you have to wonder if he even wants to.