Tiger Woods shoots 4-over 74
AKRON, Ohio -- So much for the good vibes, positive feelings and overall excellence that punctuated every previous professional appearance for Tiger Woods at Firestone Country Club.
The world's No. 1 golfer shot his worst score ever in 45 rounds dating back to 1997 on Firestone's South course, home of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods, the tournament's defending champion, shot a 4-over 74 and is tied for 70th in the 81-player field. He trails leader Bubba Watson by 10 strokes. Phil Mickelson, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, shot 66 and is tied with Kenny Perry, Adam Scott and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, 2 strokes back of Watson.
In 44 previous rounds at Firestone, Woods had never shot worse than 72. At a place where he's won seven times, he's never finished worse than a tie for fifth.
"Just because I like the golf course doesn't mean I'm going to play well on it," Woods said. "Unfortunately that's not the case. You still have to execute, and I didn't do that today. I did not execute the shots that I wanted to execute today, didn't shape the ball the way I wanted to shape it, and certainly did not putt well."
Woods, playing in just his eighth tournament of the year, was still better than the 75 he shot during the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also shot 79 during the second round of the Quail Hollow Championship. Woods finished fourth at Pebble, but missed just the sixth cut of his career at Quail Hollow.
That is not a concern here, because there is no 36-hole cut.
But Woods will have to work hard to post a respectable finish.
He got off to a horrible start, bogeying the first two holes -- he had never before bogeyed the par-5 second. He bogeyed three of the first five holes, made a birdie at the sixth and then another bogey at the ninth to turn at 3-over 38.
Woods dropped to 5 over after bogeys at the 11th and 14th holes before making just his second birdie of the day at the 17th.
After making the 7-footer for birdie, Woods mockingly bowed to the crowd and smiled at playing partner Lee Westwood.
Tiger Woods' struggles carried over to a course and a tournament he's usually mastered. Woods' 4-over 74 on Thursday was his worst round ever at Firestone and far above his previous first-round worst -- a 68.
For the day, Woods hit just 5 of 14 fairways. He hit 11 of 18 greens in regulation but needed 32 putts.
"It's frustrating because I warmed up well, my practice sessions at home were good, and today was not indicative of how I've been playing.
"I've just got to hopefully tomorrow get to even par or under par for the tournament and then hopefully put together a good weekend and see where that puts me."
Woods has not gone this far into a season without a victory on the PGA Tour since 1998, when he won in his eighth start.
And he's in some unfamiliar territory: 80th on the PGA Tour money list, 111th in the FedEx Cup standings and ninth in the U.S. Ryder Cup team standings. The final qualifying event for the Ryder Cup is next week at the PGA Championship.
Woods could find only the slightest of positives.
"I didn't play well," he said. "Only thing I did good today is I kept my patience out there, grinded all day, and that was the best I could have done today."
Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.