Tiger Woods battles back in Memorial opening round despite tight back

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Tiger Woods battles back in Memorial opening round despite tight back

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods battles back in Memorial opening round despite tight back

DUBLIN, Ohio – When it comes to his fused back, Tiger Woods expects some days to feel better than others. Thursday wasn’t the best day, but Woods battled through some stiffness and a rough start to salvage his opening round of the Memorial Tournament.

“I wasn’t rotating very well today, back was tight, and just it is what it is some days,” Woods said.

Most importantly, Woods was in no pain and after an opening even-par 72 in his first trip around Muirfield Village since the final round in 2015, Woods is still in this tournament.

At one point in his round, though, Woods was 4 over through seven holes as heavy clouds hovered over a rain-drenched course. It started with a “sniped” second tee shot where Woods pulled an iron way left, across a creek and onto a steep bank of rough. It wasn’t the first time Woods missed left of that hazard, just the first with a 2-iron.

He compounded matters after nicely hacking out into the fairway. With another long iron, Woods went for the green from 270 yards out, only to miss badly again, this time short and wet. He was able to get up and down for his bogey.

Neither of Woods’ playing competitors played well from the beginning, either. Jason Dufner made just one birdie on his round, taking 31 putts and shooting 75. Justin Rose, last week’s winner at Colonial, overcame a shaky ballstriking start to shoot 71, though his round looked to be derailing after he topped his second shot at the par-5 15th out of the rough about 55 yards before shanking his third into the gallery. He was able to get away with bogey on the hole.

Woods had troubles at No. 15, as well. Muirfield Village wasn’t playing particularly long on Thursday, even with the overnight rains, so Woods took mostly 3-woods and irons off the tees. At the 15th, though, he went with driver and blew one way right into someone’s yard. He had to re-tee and after missing a 7-footer, made double bogey.

“Not very good,” Woods said on his performance on the back nine’s par-5s. “Majority of my shots early were going left and I didn’t hit it left on 15.”

But as the sun came out and temperatures heated up, so did Woods on the front nine. He turned in 3 over thanks to a birdie at the par-4 17th and then got another back at the par-4 second with a 7-foot make for birdie.

Even after hitting a wedge long at the par-4 third and three-putting for bogey from 21 feet at the par-3 fourth, Woods didn’t panic. He credits some on-the-fly adjustments in his swing for helping him battle back, which he id beautifully with three straight birdies on his second nine, at Nos. 5-7.

The biggest shot of that run, Woods said, was a 3-iron into the par-5 fifth hole. Woods had 245 yards to the hole for his second shot and flew it 247.

“I needed to get some momentum going here,” said Woods, who didn’t have a birdie putt longer than 4 feet, 8 inches, in that three-birdie stretch.

Now, Woods will rest up and prepare for an afternoon tee time on Friday (1:16 p.m. Eastern off of No. 1). For someone who’s won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament five times, Woods still has a shot. And momentum is on his side as he hit eight of his last nine fairways and five of his last six greens.

“I fought back and I didn’t really have much starting out,” Woods said. “Didn’t really feel my swing very well and consequently I hit it both ways, mainly left. I wasn’t rotating very well. Kind of made a few tweaks, a few changes, made a couple birdies, made a couple putts and lo and behold I finished at even par, which I know it’s a long way back, but at least I’ve got a fighting chance.”

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