Breaking Down Tiger Woods' Opening Round at the Quicken Loans National

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

Tiger Woods takes a practice swing before hitting out of a sand trap on the ninth fairway during the first round of the Quicken Loans National PGA golf tournament, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The fact that Tiger Woods struggled through his first 13 holes during Round 1 of the Quicken Loans National was not overly surprising when you consider that it had been three-and-a-half months since Woods last teed it up at a professional event.

What was surprising about Woods’ opening round, however, was which areas of his game he struggled with en route to a three-over-par score of 74.

Woods, who underwent microdiscectomy surgery on his back in early April, last set foot on a PGA Tour fairway on March 13, when he posted a final-round score of 78 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral.

Since that time, Woods has been rehabbing and working to get his game back to a place where he feels he can once again compete on the PGA Tour.

“The whole progression was putting first,” Woods told the media Tuesday, as reported by ASAP Sports.

Woods continued:

I wasn't allowed to bend over and pick the balls out of the holes. So what we did is I kind of had a little creative idea that we had normal-size holes in my back yards, and I sand-filled them. So I knew if the putt went in or not, but I never had to bend over and get balls out of the hole. We did that for a couple of months. Then it was chipping and pitching. And then we added, basically about ten yards every day to two days depending on how I felt, how much inflammation was in the area.

Based on the progression of Woods’ recovery and rehabilitation, one would have assumed that his driver and long irons would have been quite rusty but that his short game would have been sharp due to the amount of practice time Woods was able to allocate to those areas of his game during the past several months.

But that was not at all the case Thursday morning at Congressional Country Club.

Woods hit the ball quite well off of the tee during Round 1. He averaged nearly 300 yards per drive, including a 332-yard blast on the par-four third, and hit 64.29 percent of the fairways.

It was the rest of Woods’ game that looked rusty, and he will certainly be looking to shake off that rust prior to the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

Woods, who began his round with a bogey on the par-three 10th, missed the green long and left from 196 yards on the par-four 11th.

Woods missed the green long and left again from 172 yards on the 17th.

On the par-four third hole, Woods once again sent his approach shot long and left, this time from just 129 yards.

Woods laid up to 107 yards on the par-five sixth but left himself with a 49-foot birdie putt after yet another poor short iron approach shot.

In total, Woods hit just 55.56 percent of greens in regulation and had a horrendous minus-.96 strokes gained putting average during his opening round.

Of the eight greens in regulation Woods missed during Round 1, he was able to get up and down just once.

This was an incredibly poor putting and short-game performance for a player who was only allowed to chip and putt for two months during his rehabilitation process and who just two days ago had declared that those areas of his game were “very sharp” heading into the Quicken Loans National.

Although Woods is currently tied for 108th in a field of 119 players (The first round is only halfway completed as of the writing of this article.), things weren’t all doom and gloom for the 14-time major champion.

Woods appeared to be pain-free on Thursday, which was a rare sight considering it has been more than six years since we have really seen Woods swing a golf club without pain.

Woods also played his last six holes in three under par, which could give him some momentum heading into Round 2. 

However things shake out after the rest of the golfers have completed their opening rounds, it is clear that Woods will need to go low tomorrow afternoon if he wants to play the weekend at what will be his first and only comeback appearance prior to the 2014 Open Championship.