Tiger Woods shoots 1-under 71

Updated: August 12, 2010, 10:27 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Thursday's opening round would look rather ordinary when compared with everything else that Tiger Woods has done in his career.

But when you consider what the past week has been like for the world's No. 1 golfer, a 1-under-par 71 at Whistling Straits looks pretty good.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelTiger Woods' roller-coaster opening round at Whistling Straits was a joy compared with last week's disastrous Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods birdied three of his first four holes at the fog-delayed PGA Championship, gave it all back, then birdied his final hole, the ninth, to shoot a subpar round for the first time since the opening round of the Open Championship at St. Andrews last month.

"I played too good not to shoot under par, and it would have been very disappointing and frustrating to end up at even par as well as I played today," said Woods, who was 3 strokes behind leaders Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari. "To shoot under par just feels like less than I should have shot for the way I played today and that's a good feeling."

Woods was coming off his worst 72-hole tournament as a pro at the Bridgestone Invitational. He shot 18 over par for four rounds at Firestone Country Club, a place where he had won seven times.

The performance at Firestone caused all sorts of alarm due to all the dubious distinctions.

Woods was on a streak of seven consecutive rounds over par, and he shot his three highest scores ever at Firestone, where he had never gone higher than 72. It was also the first time in a regular PGA Tour event -- and the first time since the 2003 PGA Championship -- that Woods failed to equal par in any round.

He has also never gone longer into any full season as a pro without winning; this is Woods' ninth tournament of the year.

Woods said he put more work in during his practice rounds this week than he usually would at a major site because of the poor performance last week. Among the obvious practice points was his desire to keep his head from moving during the swing.

"It feels better," he said on a day where he hit eight of 14 fairways, 12 of 18 greens and had 28 putts.

"Not where I want it but it's better and it's something that I've worked on with Hank [Haney, his former coach]," he said. "It's the same thing, something I've always tended to struggle with. It's how we are always taught as a junior, how I was taught as a junior growing up, how to hit the ball further, always move off the ball. But things have changed a little bit, technique has changed. It felt good to be a little bit more steady today. I felt like I was able to, as I said, drive the ball in this wind and it felt good."

Woods, on a demanding course filled with fescue and bunkers, didn't figure to turn his game around with just three days to get ready for the final major championship of the year.

But starting on the 10th hole, Woods birdied the first two holes -- the first time he has done that in any tournament round since last year's Buick Open, which he won -- and then added another birdie at the 13th to get to 3 under. But he made a bogey at the 14th and missed several other birdie opportunities.

He added another bogey at the par-5 second. And when he missed the green at the par-3 seventh, he was unable to get up and down for par. However, he came back with a birdie at the ninth to get into red numbers.

After his round, Woods was seen working on the practice range under the watchful eye of Sean Foley, who is the swing coach for Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair among others.

Woods, who has 71 career PGA Tour titles and 14 majors championships, has not won anywhere since last November's Australian Masters. His last PGA Tour victory came at the BMW Championship in September, with his last major the 2008 U.S. Open.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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