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Tiger Woods predicted a”war of attrition” at the US Open – and the devilish greens of Pinehurst have already taken some early victims.

Turtlebacks, upturned sauces, upside down cereal bowls – whatever you prefer to call them – the treacherous domed greens on this iconic Donald Ross design are the talk of this week’s championship.

And despite holing some important early putts, Woods had his fair share of struggles on the lighting fast putting surfaces.

The 15-time major champ opened with a four-over-par 74 in the morning wave on Thursday, leaving him nine shots behind the early pacesetter Patrick Cantlay.

“I didn’t hit my irons particularly well,” Woods said after hitting 14 fairways but just nine greens in regulation. “Didn’t putt that great. Drove it on the string all day. Unfortunately I just didn’t capitalise on it.”

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On the unique Pinehurst test, Woods added: “This golf course is all about the greens. The complexes are just so difficult and so severe that, I mean, I think 1-under par is only in fifth… there aren’t that many scores that are low.

“It’s hard to get the ball close. In most golf courses you play, you hit shots into where it’s feeding off of slopes into flags, whereas collecting. Here everything is repelling. It’s just hard to get the ball on top of the shelves.

“You know if you miss it short side, it’s an auto bogey or higher. Being aggressive to a conservative line is I think how you need to play this particular golf course.”

USGA tournament organisers have insisted that the greens will be a “tough but fair” test at Pinehurst, despite the concern from defending champion Wyndham Clark claiming before the tournament that they are “borderline” out of control.

And Woods added: “The greens are right where they want them. A lot of the pins were right up on the crest of the green. A lot of the pins were – if you dumped the ball in the middle of the green, it was into the grain then downgrain, into the grain and then downgrain.

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“That’s how the golf course is going to be set up. We know that going in here. Just a matter of putting the ball in correct spots and just making a bunch of pars and occasionally a birdie here and there, it can be done.”

Woods – who says he is “physically getting better” –  was then asked how he will prepare for Friday’s second round.

“I’m hoping I don’t get too tight in the car ride back, that maybe I can hit a few,” he said. “I can get tight in air-conditioning. Get back there, there’s usually no point.

“I’d like to hit a few putts. My speed was not quite there. I think I 3-putted, what, two or three times today. If I clean that up, if I get a couple iron shots not as loose as I did, I’m right there at even par.

“It can go so far the other way here, the wrong way. It’s just so hard to get back. This is a golf course that doesn’t give up a whole lot of birdies. It gives up a lot of bogeys and higher.

“I thought I did the one thing I needed to do today, which is drive the ball well. I did that, I just didn’t capitalise on any of it.”

Phil Mickelson (79), Sahith Theegala (77) and Justin Thomas (77) all struggled early at Pinehurst.


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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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