Tiger stands on precipice of season
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- They call the PGA Championship, "Glory's Last Shot." But after what happened here in Thursday's opening round, it's really Tiger Woods' last shot.
If Woods doesn't learn how to put the biscuit in the basket between now and his Friday afternoon tee time, his second major appearance of 2011 will end after two rounds. And in all likelihood, his tour season will have its very own obituary, too.
Woods shot a 7-over-par 77, which is already 14 shots behind Ryder Cup partner Steve Stricker and 8 strokes behind New Albany (Ohio) Country Club pro Bob Sowards, who can now tell his kid that he kicked TW's rear on Aug. 11, 2011. Unless Tiger shoots something seriously red on Friday (hello, 65?), he's history.
Forget about winning his first major since 2008. That wasn't going to happen here. But miss the cut -- after leading the tournament through five holes? Now that could happen.
"I'm not down," said Woods. "I'm really angry right now."
He was angry because he forgot he was New Tiger, not Old Tiger. Old Tiger used to overpower majors and intimidate fields into submission. New Tiger is still trying to figure out his new swing.
According to Woods, Old Tiger and New Tiger crossed cart paths on the same day. Disaster ensued.
"I just thought, 'This is a major and you peak for these events. And once you get to a major championship, you just let it fly, let it go,'" said Woods. "And I did and it cost me It cost me the whole round."
So after the fast start, he blew off the mechanics of his swing and now has a 77 to show for Thursday's round. By his own admission, it was a dumb thing to do.
But the miscalculation did more than cost him a round; it probably cost him any chance of ending a two-year winless streak, as well as advancing to the tour's postseason playoff series. And if you're Fred Couples, can you really justify a captain's pick for Woods in November's Presidents Cup in Australia?
Right now, no way.
Woods' game was all over the Atlanta Athletic Club map. He was 3-under as he stepped to the No. 15 tee box (he started on the back nine). Then he went double-bogey, bogey, par, double-bogey.
In all, Woods played the last 13 holes at 10-over. I'm not sure he could have broken par on his video game.
To put the round in perspective, Jerry Pate shot 77. Pate shouldn't be in the tournament. He should be back home cleaning a crawl space or something. He's won exactly $32,594 on the Champions Tour this year and last played in a PGA Championship 10 years ago. He last made a cut at one of these things in 1983.
But the PGA of America gave him a special exemption and here he is. Tied with Woods.
This was Woods' worst opening round in 56 career majors as a pro. It was his worst opening round in a PGA Championship. By the end, you wanted to hand him a sympathy card.
Woods has never missed a PGA Championship cut, but that streak probably ends on Friday. Too bad, because there were moments on Thursday when you thought his swing no longer needed an ice bag on it.
"Well, I've been in this process before," said Woods of the swing changes. "I've been through it with Butch [Harmon]. I've been through it with Hank [Haney]. And now I've been through it with Sean [Foley]."
It could have been worse for Woods. He could have shot 85, like Ryo Ishikawa did. He could have injured his right wrist on a tree root, like Rory McIlroy did. He could have sat near the No. 1 tee box for much of the day, like first alternate Paul Goydos did.
Instead, Woods grinded his way around the summer mugginess of Manila -- I mean, Atlanta Athletic Club. It was so hot, it felt like somebody was following you around with a steam iron.
Woods wore a red-shaded shirt, a color he usually reserves for Sundays. But one more 70-something, and he'll be back home wearing a T-shirt and flip-flops for the weekend.
What a bizarre round: six pars, five bogeys, four birdies and three double-bogeys. With AAC's mashed potato-thick rough, driving accuracy is a must. Woods hit only 5 of 14 fairways. That's golf death.
He was in more sand than seashells. Woods' temporary caddie Bryon Bell is going to have blisters from raking so many bunkers.
"The bunkers are tough," said Davis Love III, who played in Woods' group. "He unfortunately got in a lot of bunkers."
Padraig Harrington, the third member of the threesome, declined to analyze Tiger's troubles. Instead, he chose diplomacy.
"You know, we are all working at our own game," Harrington said.
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Nobody said New Tiger was going to be an instant success. If nothing else, he walked off the course without a limp, so the day wasn't a complete failure.
It's obvious that Woods still doesn't trust his swing. He can't depend on it yet.
Asked what adjustments he was going to make for Friday, Woods said, "It's going to be a lot. It's a laundry list."
No. 1 on the Tiger To-Do List: make the cut.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.
2011 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
2011 champion: Keegan Bradley
Course: Atlanta Athletic Club
Where: Johns Creek, Ga.
Yardage, par: 7,467 yards, par-70
Past PGA champions: Complete list