LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tiger Woods surveyed his options from so far left of the fairway he was up to his ankles in grass in a hazard he didn’t even know was there.
He could take it over the trees and go sideways, but it might be tough to keep it in the fairway.
“What about left gallery?” Woods asked his caddie.
“That’s actually not bad,” Joe LaCava replied.
He wasn’t trying to hit anyone – that was just a good sight line. And it gave him the best angle to the green. But it spoke to the state of his game Thursday in the opening round of the PGA Championship.
He was so wild at times that his best option was to aim at the crowd.
Woods made only one birdie at Valhalla – a chip-in from a collection area left of the 15th green – on his way to 3-over-par 74. That not only put him nine shots off the lead, but he is in danger of missing the cut in the PGA Championship for the second time in four years.
“It wasn’t very good,” Woods said. “A lot of bad shots, and I never got a putt to the hole.”
At least he still has his health. Woods said he was a little stiff from his most recent back injury Sunday at Firestone, though he looked the same as he has since returning from March 31 back surgery that kept him out of golf for three months.
Even before his back surgery, Woods has looked nothing like the player who won five times last year.
And perhaps worst of all? He even got sympathy from Phil Mickelson, his longtime foil.
“I thought he played with a lot of heart,” Mickelson said. “It’s not easy when your game isn’t where you want it and you’re hitting shots that you don’t normally hit to fight hard. I thought the second hole was a great example, when he hooked it into the water. A lot of guys would just play as focused, not put it all in the next shot. He grinded out a bogey. I thought that showed a lot of heart.”
On Wednesday, Woods talked about winning the PGA Championship, ending more than six years without a major.
He was still thinking that way after his round, even though he tied for 109th place.
“If I get under par for two rounds, that will be right in the ball game,” Woods said.
Based on his play Thursday – all year, really – that’s a big “if.”