World No. 1 Tiger Woodshasn’t won a major since his last U.S. Open victory in 2008, and he didn’t get off to a particularly good start to his opening round at Merion Golf Club Thursday, turning in a two-over card through 10 holes before darkness ended the round prematurely.
Woods couldn’t get much momentum going, bogeying holes No. 1 and 3. He did birdie the par-five second with a few terrific shots, but it probably wasn’t the start the 37-year-old was looking for.
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After parring No. 4, Woods sent his tee shot into the right rough at the par-four fifth and faced a difficult lie in Merion’s thick second cut. His following shot would provide one of the most noteworthy—though perhaps overhyped—events of his first round.
As ESPN’s Bob Harig and Yahoo! Sports’ Shane Bacon noted on Twitter, Woods winced and squeezed his left hand following that shot, prompting an outpouring of comments regarding a potential wrist injury:
Tiger looked like wrist bothered him when hitting out of the rough on No. 5. Had 209 to the hole, gouged shot to back of green. #USOpen
The world No. 1 went on to par the following two holes, and while he certainly didn’t play either hole perfectly, Woods did appear to have settled in. As it turned out, the weather delay was exactly what he needed.
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But at the par-three ninth, Woods killed whatever momentum he had established with a bogey four—a result of a tee shot that landed in the first cut off the right side of the green.
Facing a birdie putt and a chance to get one back from par at No. 10, Woods’ opening-round woes continued without missing a beat. As noted by Darren L. Sands, the U.S. Open frontrunner missed another big opportunity with a blown birdie chance from short range:
Tiger left another birdie out there, this time a 5-footer on No. 10. Don't understand. Still +2.
He won’t have much time to let it rest, however. With play pushed back almost five hours courtesy of two weather delays, the world’s top three golfers will be back on the course early Friday morning, as pointed out by ESPN:
Tiger, Rory, and Adam will tee off 24 hours from now at the #USOpen. Buckle up, this should be an entertaining ride.
Woods doesn’t face an insurmountable lead when he returns to the tee Friday, but he does have a lot of questions to answer. Following a particularly poor showing two weeks ago at the Memorial Tournament (tied for 65th), his recent struggles are a foreboding sign that things could continue to get worse for the world No. 1.