Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jusin Thomas have up-and-down first nine
The marquee group of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas makes the turn in the first round of the PGA Championship
It’s been an interesting ride for Tiger Woods – and his playing partners Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy – through the first nine holes during the first round of the 2020 PGA Championship.
All have had their moments of pleasure and peril. Starting off on the par-5 10th at TPC Harding Park, all three players started strong with birdies. Woods made an early appearance on the leaderboard by birdieing two of the first four holes before a bogey on no. 14 set him back. He hit just six greens in regulation, and yet, makes the turn at one-under-par heading into the slightly easier front nine. Despite some struggles off the tee, Thomas makes the turn at one-under. McIlroy is even, recovering nicely from a string of three straight bogeys from holes 12-14.
“All three of these players feel like they’ve left something out on the golf course,” said ESPN+ announcer Curtis Strange.
Off the tee, Woods has only hit four of seven fairways, all of his misses left by inches. His first tee shot settled into the left rough before he saved a birdie with a perfect flop shot onto the 10th green. His 7-iron approach on no. 12 settled within 10 feet, but his new putter couldn’t convert a second birdie. He did sink a 30-footer for birdie on No. 13.
Thomas struggled off the tee, blocking shots right throughout the morning. McIlroy fell into a rut during the toughest stretch, three straight long par 4s, from holes 12-14. He lost his tee shot left on the difficult 14th. After a drop, he hit an excellent iron onto the green and two-putted to save a bogey. He did right the ship on the short 16th, hitting an approach to three feet. He was the only player of the three to hit the fairway off the tee and capitalize with birdie. Woods drove his tee shot into a bunker and thinned his bunker shot long. He got up and down for par.
From the rough left on the 18th, Woods had to hack out just to advance the ball short of the green. A mediocre pitch brought out an expletive before a clutch par save. McIroy’s impressive birdie brought him back to even, and a nice two-putt for par from Thomas gave the threesome some momentum moving forward.
“I think he (Woods) would be pleased with this (start),” Strange said.