KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — One down, three more to go.
Or, three down and one to go.
After coming up empty in the year’s first three majors, Tiger Woods put himself in contention Thursday with an opening 69 at the PGA Championship.
Now he just needs to follow it up with three more solid rounds to give himself a chance to win his 15th major championship and zip some life into his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
Woods has matched par or better in the opening round of all four majors this year. However, he’s run into problems on the weekend at all three.
Playing in benign conditions early Thursday morning, Woods couldn’t take advantage of The Ocean Course at its weakest. Starting play on the 10th, Woods was 1-over through five holes.
Woods credited a par at the 11th, of all things, as his turning point.
“I lost my tee shot to the right there and just had to play out sideways,” Woods said. “I hit a 5-iron and left it in the only spot I thought you could. It was short, and I made a nice save there.”
Then his putter warmed up. Woods poured in a lengthy putt for birdie at the 18th, then backed it up with consecutive birdies at Nos. 1 and 2.
After a poor start at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone event, Woods finished strong on the weekend with rounds of 68 and 66.
“I made a few adjustments Friday night last week, and felt like I hit a lot of good putts,” he said. “I started the ball on my start lines again and I think I made six putts over 20 feet out there or something like that on the weekend, which is good. I came here with the same thoughts, same feels, and I made a few (Thursday).”
While playing partner Keegan Bradley started off hot with a birdie and eagle, Woods stayed patient. After a bogey at the fourth, when the wind took his tee shot left, Woods closed with four pars and a birdie at the par-3 eighth.
He ended the round on a positive note with a par save after missing the green on the ninth. With the ball sitting on the downslope, he executed a nifty pitch.
“The shot itself was nasty,” Woods said as he flashed his famous grin. “Nasty as in nasty good.”