Woods fades late in opening round

Updated: June 19, 2009, 5:47 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- It was not the start he was looking for. And the reason was all about the end.

Tiger Woods was right where he wanted to be Friday morning during the completion of the weather-delayed first round of the U.S. Open -- even par after a birdie at the 14th. He then made a double-bogey and two bogeys coming in to finish with a 4-over-par 74 at Bethpage Black.

"I was hitting good shots. I was even par with four to go," Woods said. "It's not like I was hitting it all over the place. Hit a lot of good shots. Unfortunately didn't finish off the round the way I needed to."

When Woods finished, he was five shots out of the lead. By the time the first round ended, he was 10 shots behind Mike Weir, who shot a remarkable 64. The biggest comeback over the final 54 holes in U.S. Open history is nine shots by Jack Fleck, who did it 54 years ago at Olympic Club.

For the first time since the first round of last year's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Woods made two double-bogeys in the same round. Of course, he went on to win that tournament in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.

But Woods finished that day at 1-over 72. The last time Woods shot in the 60s during the opening round of a U.S. Open was when he shot 67 here in 2002 on his way to victory.

Woods completed six holes of the first round on Thursday morning when the round was suspended due to inclement weather. He left himself a 10-footer for par before the delay, then missed that putt when play resumed at 7:30 a.m. ET. That dropped him to 2 over.

But Woods rebounded with birdies at the 11th and 14th holes to get to even par. A poor chip at the 15th led to a three-putt double-bogey, and he added bogeys at the 16th and 18th holes when he missed the green at each.

"Hit a bad tee shot on 15 but got a great lie there, went for it," Woods said at a brief post-round meeting with the media. "Plug it in the face, took a drop. Hit a decent pitch but I didn't think it was going to come all the way back to my feet like that. Blocked the first putt and hit a bad second putt. [At] 16, caught a mud ball there and didn't make the putt. Didn't get up-and-down on 18, bad tee shot, led to another bogey."

While several players had yet to begin their first round when Woods finished and faced a long day in what could be the easiest conditions of the week, the world's No. 1 player said he was glad to be done, and didn't necessarily believe he was at a disadvantage for having played in the horrible conditions Thursday.

"I think the guys who are playing today and tomorrow morning are going to get more mud balls," Woods said. "It's only going to get worse, unless we get more rain.

"If we get more rain we won't catch them again, but if it dries out more, this is going to get interesting, because you're going to have to hit -- you would think you would have to hit low tee shots and run it off but the problem is, the fairways are so soft, it's not going to go anywhere. If you take the chance of carrying the ball out there, you also have a chance of picking up mud on the ball, too."

Weather permitting, Woods will likely tee off at some point midmorning Saturday, when more rain and storms are expected.

The torrential rain that didn't allow play beyond 10:16 a.m. ET Thursday had many wondering how the course could possibly be suitable for play on Friday morning. But it was.

"It looked great," Woods said. "The staff did a hell of a job getting the golf course ready. I'm sure they worked all night to try to get this golf course playable, and it was great out there."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com