Tiger Woods score: Early start brings success as 68 contends after Round 1 at PGA Championship 2020

On the first day of the 2020 PGA Championship, for most of his round, Tiger Woods looked as we’ve seen him look so far in 2020. Granted, he hasn’t played a ton of rounds, but Woods put together a solid performance that said he can definitely win this golf tournament.

Woods shot a 2-under 68 on Thursday in a Round 1 that saw myriad monstrous names stack the top of the leaderboard. Woods finished a few back of the clubhouse leaders in the morning wave, but he’s in a strong position going into Friday’s second round.

The common adage coming into this week’s PGA Championship was that, if you miss fairways, you can’t score. Woods did his best to prove that wrong over his first 18 holes as he hit just seven of 14 fairways but still finished well under par in weather that provided a very scorable track. Tiger was able to post a number despite not hitting it very accurately off the tee because he took it deep with his driver and also because of a cleaned-up short game coming off his T40 showing at Muirfield Village a few weeks ago.

Woods started off nicely on the 10th hole and birdied two of his first four holes before going on a stretch in which he hit just one of seven fairways after that. He unsurprisingly played that stretch of holes in 2 over, but boy, could it have been a lot worse. The 18th hole on the course (his ninth of the day) was emblematic of the grind he showed. After yanking his drive off the tee, his second rolled to the bottom of a big hill. He hit a good pitch — given his position — to 20 feet and drained the par putt. Vintage major championship stuff. 

Woods caught a little fire on his back nine, too. Using a new (longer) Scotty Cameron putter, he rolled in birdies of 4, 13 and 14 feet as he took it all the way to 3 under before dropping back with a bogey on the tough par-3 8th hole. Though his run at the end stalled out, he did what he needed to do following a struggling middle of the round.

“I felt good,” said Woods after the round. “When I played at Memorial, I got into the flow of the round very quickly, so that was a positive. I tried to use the same mentality here, which I was able to do. I got off to a nice, quick start again. For the better part of the day, I hit the ball pretty consistently and kept the ball on the correct side. If I missed, I missed with the correct angles. I was able to leave myself nice angles to either get the ball onto the green or save par. And I made a couple nice little par putts.”

To actually win this major, Woods will have to drive the ball better on a track that he said is “all about hitting fairways.” His putter and short game were really good at times, and at the time he finished he was first in the field in driving distance, but you can’t grind your way to major wins when the winning score is going to be pretty low. The fight keeps you close when you don’t have your best stuff off the tee, but on a course where the rough is tough but birdies are there when you hit fairways, Woods will have to hit fairways.

“We got a long way to go,” said Woods. “This golf course is only getting more difficult. The dots for [Friday] are, again, going to be tough. There’s a premium on hitting fairways because, if you hit the ball in the rough, it’s potluck whether you’re going to have a lie or not. … Hopefully I can hit the ball a little more consistent than I did today.”

If he does, Woods will be in the thick of what should be an absolutely loaded leaderboard. If he doesn’t, Woods might not be able to grind forever.

Tiger stayed steady on Thursday, but his march toward major No. 16 will hinge on what he does on Friday afternoon with what should be a more difficult setup and loads of major winners out in front of him for the taking.

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