Tiger battles driver woes, breaks par
By David Kraft
CHASKA, Minn. -- He's not in 100th place, the spot he was after shooting 73 in the first round of last year's PGA Championship when he ended up tied for 29th.
Tiger Woods' struggles off the tee often meant his approach shots were off as well.
But he's not in the lead, either, the spot he was after shooting 66 in the first round two years ago, when he went on to win the Wanamaker Trophy.
Instead, Tiger Woods shot a 71 on Thursday at Hazeltine National, a score that leaves him three shots behind leaders Jim Furyk and Fred Funk.
His verdict? "Overall, I hit the ball pretty good," Woods said. "Except for my driver."
Ah, the driver. Woods hit it seven times on Thursday. He found two fairways with it. And when he missed, he really missed.
"My backswing was off," Woods said. "When that happens, I either get defensive and hit it left, or get defensive and hit it right."
Woods was well left off the tee for bogeys on the 18th (his ninth hole of the day) and the first, which dropped him to even par. He saved par despite missing the seventh fairway to the left and the ninth fairway to the right -- far enough right that he was in a fairway bunker on the adjacent ninth hole.
A look at Woods' first rounds at all four majors this year.
His 71 could have been closer to playing partner David Toms' 77 if not for Woods' length and magic from some un-Woods-like places he found himself off the tee.
"It was frustrating, because I felt good over the shots," Woods said. "The only shot I didn't feel comfortable over was at nine, my last hole. Every other drive, I felt good over the shot and I just made a bad swing."
Woods hit just one shot on his round -- off the 10th tee -- before a rain and lightning delay of nearly three hours early Thursday morning. After the delay, he came out and birdied the 11th and 12th holes, seemingly serving notice on the field.
But his momentum stalled with five straight pars. Then he made the back-to-back bogeys to fall back to even.
Woods served himself some notice. He made par on the second and third holes, then birdied the par-3 fourth, where his 7-iron rolled to within six feet of the cup and he made the putt.
"That was huge," Woods said. "It was nice not to go over par . . . I wasn't driving the ball well, but I was playing well. I was hitting good shots. I was hitting putts. And all of the sudden, it looked like I was 2-under par and now I'm going to go over par."
He saved par on the last five holes, though a couple were adventurous, thanks to the driver.
"I hit the ball solid, crisp and made some putts," Woods said. "The only thing that was frustrating was I was not able to get my rhythm on my driver."
Woods went out to the tee with coach Butch Harmon to work on his driver at about the same time the afternoon pairings -- delayed nearly two and a half hours because of the rain -- were teeing off in a freshening wind.
Woods said the weather delay didn't affect his swing. "That's not even close to being it, sorry," he said later.
In fact, he said the delay didn't impact him at all, mostly because he'd barely started playing. He spent the delay eating and talking, with one locker-room TV tuned to past PGA Championship memories on The Golf Channel, the other tuned to last night's baseball highlights on SportsCenter.
"It was a lot more difficult if you're deep into the round and you've got to come back and play nine holes or something like that," Woods said.
Woods is scheduled to face the afternoon conditions on Friday, with a 3:05 p.m. ET tee time.
"To end up at 1-under par today, with these conditions, I'll take that," Woods said. "Anything under par today is going to be a good score."