LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Maybe Tiger Woods should have stayed at home.
Looking much like a guy who could barely bend over last weekend, Woods sprayed shots all over Valhalla and faced a daunting deficit at the PGA Championship before heavy favorite Rory McIlroy even teed off Thursday.
“That wasn’t very good,” said Woods, who made only one birdie – and had to hole out from the fairway to do that – on the way to a 3-over 74. “A lot of bad shots.”
One landed in a creek. Another sent the gallery scrambling. Yet another rolled into a fenced-off area where fans can use cellphones, a good 30 yards right of the fairway.
Too bad Woods couldn’t call for help.
“I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. I didn’t get a putt to the hole,” he said. “That’s not a good combo.”
Lee Westwood, shooting his best score ever at the PGA Championship, was joined at 65 by Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell, leaving Woods nine shots off the lead. Jim Furyk and Edoardo Molinari were one stroke back.
Coming off wins at the British Open and Firestone, McIlroy made an afternoon charge after stumbling at the 10th, where he knocked his second shot over a fence and took double bogey. The 25-year-old ripped off four straight birdies starting at No. 12 to reach 4 under.
Woods’ main objective today will be making the cut, though he insisted he still has a chance to capture his 15th major title.
“I just don’t see, on this golf course, guys going super low here,” he said, apparently not having seen the scoreboard. “I’ve got to get to under par by the end of tomorrow. … If I can get under par for two rounds, that’s going to be right in the ballgame.”
Woods didn’t arrive at Valhalla until Wednesday, having been in Florida undergoing treatment for a back injury that forced him to withdraw at Firestone on Sunday. He struggled to pick up his tee and change his shoes, but insisted that he was fit by the time he got to Kentucky.
“It’s a little bit stiff,” he said of his back, “but that’s about it.”
Westwood carried over the momentum from a closing 63 at Firestone, his best round of the year. The 41-year-old Englishman made nine birdies – helping offset a double bogey – and eclipsed his best round in 17 PGA appearances, a 66 on the first day at Oak Hill in 2013.
Chappell, a 28-year-old Californian in his fourth year on the PGA Tour, turned in a bogey-free round.
Palmer birdied five of the nine holes on the back side, which is where he started his round.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.