Tiger's putter lets him down at Congressional

Tiger’s putter lets him down at Congressional

Woods shot an opening-round 73.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Ten years later, Tiger Woods struggled again at the Congressional Country Club.

Woods bogeyed the first two holes of his own tournament on Thursday before rain forced a brief delay. When play resumed, it didn’t get any better. By the time his round was over, he had missed a 2-foot tap-in, hit a man in the face with a drive and tossed his putter in frustration at his bag several times.

The last time Woods played a competitive round here, he finished 19th at the 1997 U.S. Open.

His scorecard in the first round of the inaugural AT&T National included seven bogeys in a 3-over round of 73, tied for 77th place and seven shots behind five co-leaders: Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi, Joe Ogilvie and Stuart Appleby.

Woods putted 34 times, including three three-putts, and he missed every attempt longer than 8 feet.

“It’s one of the worst putting rounds I have had in years,” Woods said. “I’m going to have to figure out something for (Friday) because evidently what I’m doing is not even close to being right. I’ve got to fix it. I’ve got to get back in this tournament.”

On the final day of the U.S. Open in 1997, he finished his round and said: “The suffering’s over. This golf course beat me up.”

This time, he was ready to beat up his putter.

Woods hadn’t played since finishing second at the U.S. Open three weeks ago, and he said he still had the fast greens of Oakmont on his mind on a damp, humid day. He kept leaving his putts short, sometimes well short, frustrating both himself and a large gallery that kept showing its appreciation by shouting out remarks such as: “Hey, Tiger, thanks for bringing golf to D.C.”

Since the U.S. Open, Woods has become a father and had to deal with the last-minute logistics of joining Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to host a PGA Tour event. Even so, he said he wasn’t any more nervous than usual at hole No. 1.

“That was the easy part, getting out there and playing,” Woods said. “The other responsibilities, that’s something you don’t normally do. Once I get back inside the ropes, I get back in my comfort level, and I felt at peace going out there and competing.”

At peace, but not at his best. His first tee shot landed in the thick rough, and his first putt of the day lipped out, prompting a puzzled look as he rubbed his upper lip with his index finger. He bogeyed the par-3 No. 2 after misplaying a sand shot, then was standing at the No. 3 tee box in the rain when the horn sounded to stop play.

The delay was only 18 minutes, but it seemed to calm Woods. He birdied two of the next three holes but was woefully inconsistent the rest of the round. He figured his final putt at No. 16 was a gimmie, so he tried to tap it in with an awkward stance and missed.

At No. 18, his tee shot hit a man in the face and shoulder. Woods gave the man an autographed glove and apologized, then went on to bogey the hole with another miss from 2 1/2 feet.

Meanwhile, 28 players were under par on 7,204-yard, par-70 course that was expected to be a tough test with its high rough and long par 4s.

“There’s a bunch of guys up there right now,” Woods said. “I’ve got three rounds. I can’t get them in one.”

The leaderboard is an eclectic mix of styles, ranging from the long-hitting Singh to older, lay-up players such as 51-year-old Fred Funk and 47-year-old Corey Pavin, who are both one stroke off the lead. In the star partnership of Phil Mickelson (74) and Adam Scott (72), Brad Faxon outshone them both as the third member of the threesome, beating might with accuracy with a steady 69, even as his partners consistently out-drove him.

“When they put the deep rough like they have this week, that’s my equalizer,” Funk said. “The harder the golf course, the better for me in my opinion.”

Mickelson, who is battling a left wrist injury, was rusty in his first tournament since missing the cut at the U.S. Open. Mickelson didn’t wear a brace and blamed two bogeys and a double bogey on his putting rather than his injury.

“I was told that it may hurt, but I won’t be doing any more damage,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve been going after it pretty good, and it does hurt, but as long as I am not doing any more damage I’m OK.”

Divots: NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark was one shot off the lead with a 67. The 19-year-old amateur just finished his freshman year at USC. … There were no bogey-free rounds and only two eagles: Funk holed out from 139 yards at the par-4 No. 12, and Brett Wetterich eagled the par-5 ninth.

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