Tiger Woods has explained what caused him to stay away from Bethpage all day on Wednesday.
In a move that threw his participation in this year’s US PGA Championship into serious doubt, the Masters champion skipped the final day of practice, despite having played only nine holes this week – on Monday – and in spite of being scheduled to hit the course alongside Harold Varner III.
Despite his agent, Mark Steinberg, insisting that he was “all good”, it was only when Woods appeared for the first round that the panic subsided.
And, after opening his latest major bid with a sloppy two-over 72 to lie outside the top 50, Woods contradicted Steinberg’s claims.
“I wasn't feeling that good yesterday, so I decided to stay home and rest,” said the 43-year-old. “I got a little bit sick, so I decided to stay home.”
He didn’t elaborate much further, adding only that he “felt good” during the round.
Even so, the far-from-ideal preparation told in an up-and-down first day that began with a double-bogey at his opening hole, the tenth.
He got a shot back at the 15th only to cough up another double at the par-3 17th, turning in 38.
Birdies at the first and second got things going in the right direction before an eagle at the fourth – remarkably, his first eagle in the US PGA since the third round of the 2001 championship at Atlanta Athletic Club – got him into red numbers for the first time.
However, three bogeys in his final five holes undid all his good work, all but ending his hopes of winning back-to-back majors.
“It wasn't as clean as I'd like to have it,” he added. “I didn't get off to a very good start. It was a good drive and ended up in a bad spot, and I compounded the problem with trying to use the backboard behind the hole there and missing a putt I should have made. Then I found my way back around. Got it back under-par for the day, and let a couple slip away with a couple bad putts and a couple mistakes at the end.”
A measure of the task facing Tiger over the next three rounds? He is nine shots behind first round leader and playing partner Brooks Koepka. According to the oracle of golf stats, Justin Ray, the only player in the last 100 years to win a major when nine or more shots off the lead after the opening round was Jack Fleck at the 1955 US Open.