No one really knew what to expect when Tiger Woods teed off at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Sure, he had experienced major triumph here before, but that was in 2007 — 15 years (a lifetime!) ago.
So when Woods birdied his opening hole — the 441-yard par-4 10th — by sticking it close and converting a straightforward five-footer, it seemed as though a 16th major championship could actually be feasible.
When another birdie followed at the par-3 14th (this time by draining an impressive 15-footer), Woods was two under through five — an exciting tally for any player, let alone the game’s 46-year-old GOAT, and he was just one shot off the pace of three under set by his groupmate, Rory McIlroy.
But as Woods himself would tell you, his car-accident recovery has never been about his ability to execute shots (he absolutely can), but rather, as we witnessed at the Masters, his stamina for back-to-back days of grueling tournament golf.
The mistakes started to pile up, and Woods signed for a four-over 74, which was a tie for 89th when he finished.
For Woods, after the strong start, things started to go the other way starting with the par-4 15th hole.
A wayward tee shot set up a difficult approach that ended up in the bunker, and Woods failed to get it up and down. Bogey. Same thing on 18, when a botched approach into the greenside bunker led to another bogey. That left Woods respectably even for the back side, his first nine, but already trailing McIlroy’s pace by four shots.
The downward slide continued with cold approaches on holes 1 and 2 that led to bogeys, putting Woods two over through 11. Woods finally stuck one close on the par-4 3rd, and made the shortie that remained for birdie, but yet another bad approach on the par-4 4th resulted in another bogey, bringing Woods back to two over on the day.
As an aside, the bunkers appeared to be giving Woods fits on Thursday — maybe it has something to do with this textural observation by Ian Poulter?
At any rate, Woods righted the ship for a few holes in a row, parring Nos. 5, 6 and 7, before suffering his sixth bogey of the day on the par-3 8th — again, with a blown greenside bunker shot — and a final, seventh bogey on the par-4 9th, bringing him to four over on both his second nine and overall.
Woods will tee it up alongside Jordan Spieth (72) and McIlroy (65), who was the first-round clubhouse leader at five under, for Friday’s second round at 2:36 p.m. ET.