SAN FRANCISCO — An excellent little bit of firepower stepped onto the 10th tee early Thursday morning at TPC Harding Park to start the PGA Championship, however after Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy had been launched through microphone by the starter, they had been met with silence.
That is the brand new regular in skilled golf, and McIlroy himself mentioned he has change into accustomed to it, regardless that just a few dozen individuals milled about and might need provided up … one thing.
“It is nonetheless humorous … ‘99, 2000, 2006, 2007, PGA Champion, Tiger Woods’ — and there is nothing,” McIlroy mentioned. “That is fairly fascinating. That is undoubtedly totally different.”
Welcome to the primary main championship of the COVID-19 period, the primary main to be performed in 13 months — and Woods’ first opening-round rating within the 60s at a serious championship because the 2014 Open.
5 birdies and three bogeys meant a 2-under-par 68 and left Woods three photographs again of Jason Day, a fairly good begin on a day that provided simpler scoring circumstances than anticipated and a break from the chilly temperatures that may impression Woods’ again.
And placing a brand new model of the Scotty Cameron putter he has used for a majority of his profession in his bag additionally helped.
“I have been messing round with this putter for the higher a part of over a yr,” Woods mentioned. “Rob [McNamara] and I’ve been speaking about it. It is troublesome for me to bend over at occasions, and so working towards placing … I do not spent the hours I used to. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend 4, 5, six hours placing per day. I definitely cannot log that with my again being fused.
“A lot of the guys on the Champions Tour have gone to longer putters as they’ve gotten older, as a result of it is simpler to not bend over. And so this putter is just a bit bit longer and I have been capable of spend somewhat bit extra time placing.”
Woods took 28 putts and had a number of excellent ones, together with the 10-footer on the 10th for birdie to open the match, after which a 35-footer on the 13th to get to 2 underneath. He additionally made a key 10-footer for par on the 18th and had a number of wonderful lag putts.
Two of the bogeys — on the 14th and second holes — had been the results of lacking the green off the tee. He hit simply 7 of 14 fairways for the spherical, a problem he must get cleaned up.
“This golf course, you must hit the ball within the fairway,” he mentioned. “You get a ball within the tough, into the grain, there is not any probability you may get the ball to the inexperienced. I felt like I did an honest job of doing that, and the golf course is simply going to get tougher because the week goes on.”
The choice to alter putters is an enormous one in Tiger’s world. He has hardly ever wavered from the Scotty Cameron Newport II putter that he first put in play in 1999 and used for the following 11 years. He has gained 14 of his 15 majors and a few $94 million in prize cash with that putter.
However he has switched at occasions. He went to a Nike mannequin in 2010. In 2018, he used two totally different TaylorMade putters earlier than switching again to the Cameron.
“There’s one thing conversant in my different one,” he mentioned. “I’ve gained just a few occasions with it. However each once in a while, it must benched and this was an excellent week for it.”
The rating was Woods’ finest opening spherical in a serious championship in relation to par since he shot 67 on the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham.
It was simply his fifth spherical because the PGA Tour resumed play in June and solely his 13th in 2020. He’s coming off a tie for 40th three weeks in the past on the Memorial, the place he shot scores of 71-76-71-76.
That led to appreciable conjecture about Woods’ means to be aggressive regardless of a lot time away.
“I assumed something as we speak within the purple was going to be good,” Woods mentioned. “The best way the forecast was, it was alleged to carry as we speak and get little extra windy. I felt if I shot one thing within the purple, I might be proper there as a result of the circumstances had been going to be robust this afternoon. I used to be capable of do it.”
Woods will play the second spherical with McIlroy, who shot 70, and No. 1-ranked Thomas, who shot 71, beginning at 4:58 p.m. ET on Friday.