PGA Championship - Round One
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A new putter has Tiger Woods squarely in the mix after the first round at the 2020 PGA Championship.

Woods made more feet of putts than his playing partners – World No. 1 Justin Thomas and third-ranked Rory McIlroy – combined. His 2-under 68 that included five birdies put him within three strokes of leader Jason Day and in a tie for 17th after the morning wave at TPC Harding Park. It was his lowest opening-round score in a major since 2012 and his 100th career round in the 60s at the majors.

“I felt like if I shot something in the red, I would be right there because the conditions were going to be tough this afternoon for the guys,” he said. “I was able to do it. I didn't think there were that many guys at 4-under or better, but the greens were soft this morning. If you drove the ball in play, you could get the ball close to some of these flags.”

Consistent ball-striking hit four of seven fairways and six of nine greens on each nine, but it was the putter that helped Woods outplay his higher-ranked, younger foes. While he missed a few makeable birdie putts, he looked comfortable using a new and longer version of the Scotty Cameron Newport putter. His longest bomb was a 30-footer for birdie on no. 13. Woods birdied the two par 5s on the par-70 layout despite missing both fairways: No. 10 to start the day and the 600-yard fourth hole on his back nine. Woods said he’s been “messing around” with the putter for more than a year. The decision to trust it paid off.

 “Most of the guys on the Champions Tour have gone to longer putters as they have gotten older, because it's easier to bend over, or not bend over,” he said. “And so this putter is just a little bit longer and I've been able to spend a little bit more time putting (and practicing). It's also very similar to my sand wedge. I putt with my sand wedge all the time at home. I like the feel in my right hand. I like blading putts and hitting the ball in the equator. Not unusual for me to be messing around with something a bit longer. Felt like I was able to spend the time putting again and log in (the) time, and felt like I was able to get ready for this event.”

A critical par putt on no. 18 held the round together. After missing the fairway and green, Woods appeared frustrated following a mediocre pitch. Making the putt kept him 1-under through nine holes. Missing fairways left on no. 14 and no. 2 led to two of his bogeys. A greenside bunker gathered up his errant tee shot on the 237-yard eighth. Following a nice escape to six feet, he slid his par putt by on the right side, probably the only one he’d really like back.

“Making, I think, the big par putts is what enabled, over the course of a tournament, to keep momentum of the round going, and that was a big putt for me to make (on the 18th green) after making a mistake on my tee shot, missing it left,” Woods said. “You know, kept it rolling from there. I made some good putts.  For the most part of the day, I missed the ball on the correct sides.  This golf course, you have to hit the ball in the fairway. You get a ball in the rough, into the grain, there's no chance you can get the ball to the green. I felt like I did a decent job of doing that, and the golf course is only going to get more difficult as the week goes on.”

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