KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — One week it’s the problem, the next week it’s the solution.
Such is life as Tiger Woods’ putter – one week people say it is the reason he isn’t dominating like he used to (despite three wins this season), the next it is the reason why he fired a 3-under 69 in the first round of the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course on Thursday.
A week after posting 30-plus putts in a round twice at WGC-Bridgestone, Woods needed only 22 on a hot-and-steamy day in South Carolina.
He says those dismal rounds at Firestone caused him to look closely at his stroke, hence the difference on Thursday.
“I putted well on the weekend (at Bridgestone), made a few adjustments Friday night last week, and felt like I hit a lot of good putts,” said Woods, who hit 10 of 18 greens in regulation and 9 of 14 fairways.
“Started the ball on my start lines again and I think I made six putts over 20 feet out there or something like that on the weekend, which is good. Came here with the same thoughts, same feels, and I made a few today.”
He one-putted on 12 of the 18 holes – including all six of his birdies. Three of those birdies came in succession at the turn, moving into the red with a 25-footer at No. 18, and then following it up with a 6-footer at No. 1 and a 10-footer at No. 2.
But his best putt of the day came at No. 17, when he bailed himself out after a suspect tee shot and chip at the par 3, holing a 10-foot uphill par putt to stay at even par and set off the birdie run.
He only missed one putt all day, ruining a beautiful tee ball at the par-3 5th hole to 4 feet by pulling his birdie putt left.
Woods’ confidence built throughout the round, and culminated in a very gutsy flop shot from just in front of the green at the par-4 9th hole, landing it under the hole and slope took it to about 18 inches to end his day with a solid par.
“The lie was downgrain ever so slightly on the downslope. And because it was downgrain and it was soft, I could play the shot,” said Woods, who fired his lowest PGA first round score since a second-place finish in 2009.
“If not, I was just going to ‑‑ if it was into the grain, I would have pitched it to the right 15 feet and tried to make the putt, but because it was sitting downgrain, I could actually try to play that shot up in the air.”
Not everything smelled like roses for Woods, including a one-shot penalty on the par-4 4th hole after a wayward tee shot into a hazard that caused him to give his stand bag a good whack with the shaft of his driver and a few choice words for himself.
“I was trying to hit a low bullet, and I turned it ever so slightly, it wasn’t that bad but I turned it, and I figure if I could‑‑ if I turned it, I would get down there to 300, 5‑wood I could hit down there to 300 and unfortunately it rode it, and it was gone,” explained Woods.
There were also the back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14, paying the price for playing it safe off the 13th tee and a pulled tee ball into a tough lie in the rough at the par-3 14th.
“I’m going to do a little bit of work on the range, clean a few things up. I know what to do and just need to do it,” said Woods, who will tee off with Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer at 1:40 p.m. EDT off the No. 1 tee on Friday.