After Worst-Ever Open Round, Woods Vows to ‘Keep Grinding’
By Dave Shedloski
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – The difficulties continue for Tiger Woods, a man who used to make golf look so easy.
Punctuating his day by topping a fairway metal on the 18th hole, a shockingly inept stroke for a man of such immense talent, Woods suffered yet another scoring indignity in a season full of them, shooting a 10-over-par 80 Thursday in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
Woods, 39, coming off his highest score as a pro, an 85 two weeks ago at the Memorial Tournament, posted his worst score in 68 rounds played in the National Open. It was three shots higher than the 77 he carded as an amateur in the third round of the 1996 championship at Oakland Hills Country Club.
Winner of three U.S. Open titles, Woods beat just two players, one of them being fellow competitor Rickie Fowler, who shot 81. Woods has failed to break 80 in three of his 15 rounds this year after going 1,107 rounds previously with only one dreaded “snowman.”
“At least I kicked Rickie’s butt today,” Woods joked, trying to find something to smile about.
“Not very happy, that’s for sure. It was a tough day. Got off to a bad start. I stuck that 6-iron in the ground on the first hole, and then just couldn’t quite get it turned around today,” said Woods, who tried to put on a brave face on after making eight bogeys, a triple bogey and just one birdie. “I fought, I fought hard. And that was my number. I couldn’t grind out any harder than that. So that’s just the way I played and unfortunately it was a high number today.”
Obviously, these never used to be his numbers. Not even close. In his 18 previous U.S. Open starts Woods averaged 71.34 strokes per round while collecting eight top-10 finishes and 14 top-25s.
Woods, who missed last year's U.S. Open at Pinehurst after having back surgery, has been working on a new swing with instructor Chris Como, but the changes have yet to bear fruit. Late Wednesday afternoon, perhaps indicating he still was searching, he showed up at Chambers Bay for a practice session, something he had never done before on the eve of a major.
The extra practice was all for naught.
“I know when I do it right, it’s so easy,” he said. “It just feels easy to control, easy to do it, easy to hit all my shots. I just need to do it more often and build from there.”
Asked if this is the toughest golf has been in his career, he replied that it was, “because I haven’t had enough. I haven’t had a rhythm to play. I didn’t play much last year and I haven’t played much this year. Knee surgeries [of which he has had five] are pretty easy compared to a back surgery, the recovery time. And for some reason, it’s just a lot harder dealing with a nerve than a joint.”
His plan for Friday (when he begins Round 2 at 8:28 a.m. PDT on No. 10) was simple. “Keep grinding,” he said. “Keep grinding and keep working.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently writes for USGA websites.